She Described It to Death
She Described It to Death was made for Royal Opera, London. It’s premiére was scheduled for July 2020 but the production was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The project had taken three years to that point, with libretto and music complete and a director and design team engaged.
The opera speculates on how near-immortality might change our understanding of what is truly important. Its complex story reflects our often-disastrous relationship with narrative itself. It is set in an unidentified city, where the birds and animals have contrived to alter destructive human behaviour by gifting them longevity and banishing writers. But this has only served to dehumanise citizens. People experience nothing but frustration and the violence of exchanges fraught with lethargy or aggressive self-interest.
The plot follows an outsider, Attis, as she attempts to bring people together. The audience witness the grim talents of Volvox, a sentient algae, intent on keeping things in a state of dysfunction. We also see Attis meet Acantha, a writer in hiding, who we suspect might be able to alter this state of affairs. The question is whether she can be coaxed or coerced into action…
In an attempt to salvage the opera’s music, I teamed up with my friend Kit Downes to rework some of it for solo piano, resulting in the album Premonitions of the Unbuilt City.