SAPPHO THE OPERA
Peggy Glanville-Hicks on Sappho
“… it is an acting role, par excellence, and a great acting capacity is far more important than a beautiful or famous voice here. The text is fabulous, and the most difficult to set that I’ve ever encountered, simply because the words are so lovely, packed and significant, and I feel all along that they must be heard, the music being scaled down to ensure this. There are none of the easy success gimmicks of most good operas, and which Nausicaa had, big blocks of active chorus, fast action, corpses, duels, plotting quartets, ballet interludes etc.
This piece is a thread depending on the bit by bit development and building up of a character, an ageing, tragic, rich, successful, famous lady who, mystic at heart has never found fulfillment despite having had everything. She is in turn tempestuous, querulous, compassionate, tender, fierce, impatient, swinging fast from one mood to another, poised like a needle in a compass. The music without a strong personality will be fragmented and spasmodic;… I’ve never done anything like it before…”
Dramatis Personae & Premiere Recording Cast
Sappho (Mezzo Soprano) – Deborah Polaski
Renowned poet and (secretly) the Oracle of Lesbos.Wife of elderly merchant Kreon and mother of two young children. Wealthy, successful and adored, yet unfulfilled.
Phaon (Lyric Tenor) – Martin Homrich
Twin brother of General Pittakos. Long thought dead, he reappears having spent seven years in isolation on an island recovering from leprosy. Shuns the materialistic lifestyle of his old friends.
Pittakos (Dramatic Tenor) – Scott MacAllister
Twin brother of Phaon and former lover of Sappho. The General of Lesbos, returning victorious from war. Eager for further conquests and power, including the title of Tyrant.
Diomedes (Baritone) – Roman Trekel
A poet and witty drunkard, secretly in love with Chloe, his son’s young wife.
Minos (Bass Baritone) – Wolfgang Koch
Sappho’s tutor and confidant, Kreon’s friend from days prior to the earthquake.
Kreon (Bass) – John Tomlinson Merchant of Lesbos.
Sappho’s elderly husband.
Chloe, Joy & Doris (Soprano & Mezzo Soprano) – Jacquelyn Wagner, Bettina Jensen & Maria Markina
Three young maids in Sappho’s household. Chloe is betrothed to Diomedes’ son. Priestess (Soprano) – Jacquelyn Wagner A Priestess of the Oracle.
Alexandrian (Tenor/Baritone) – Laurence Meikle
A guest at the Symposium.