Opera and Music Theatre

Lonely Sits the City (2009)

Solo soprano with electroacoustic music
Premiered at the Junction Theatre, Cambridge (May 2009) by the Electric Voice Theatre (Frances M Lynch, soprano)
Duration: 30 minutes

The libretto is derived from The Book of Lamentations from the Hebrew Bible. This text consists of five poems detailing the destruction of Jerusalem in 586BCE. This text has been set to music many times, usually in the context of mourning. Lonely Sits the City by contrast, is a dramatic setting and therefore draws on a much wider emotional range. A conceit of the original text is to personalise the city as a violated woman. This is taken further in the opera by treating this female voice as a real person, traumatised by the recent destruction of everything around her. The five poems are imagined as stations of grief: shock, anger, numbness, despair and finally acceptance. During the third section - the only poem which is definitely given from a male point of view - she collapses and listens to the distant despairing voice of a captive. At the end of the fourth (solo) section she finally has to decide whether she can continue. In choosing life - the fifth section - she is also determined to remember what has happened.

The piece is - deliberately - a virtuosic work for the soprano soloist, composed as a tribute to the extraordinary talents of long-time collaborator, Frances Lynch. The pre-composed music included five additional voices (a female chorus and a counter-tenor). These voices were projected through separate loudspeakers from different parts of the auditorium to create a highly dynamic theatre of sound. The electronic music also used samples from a re-created ancient Babylonian lyre. The text is heavily redacted and set in both Hebrew and English. The Hebrew letters - alef, bet, gimel, dalet, hey etc - are used to reflect the acrostic nature of the poems and the musical tradition of setting the letters as part of the text.