Gavin Bryars Writing Opera About Marilyn Monroe

Classic Arts News   Gavin Bryars Writing Opera About Marilyn Monroe
British composer Gavin Bryars is writing a new one-person, one-act chamber opera about Marilyn Monroe.

The Times Colonist of Victoria, British Columbia reports that the work will be about 75 minutes long and will be staged by both the Almeida Opera of London and Victoria's Aventa company. (Bryars spends his summers in Metchosin, a rural community near Victoria on Vancouver Island on Canada's west coast.) The Aventa, according to the paper, will likely perform the world premiere; expected to star is soprano Anna Maria Friman, a member of the vocal ensemble Trio Mediaeval, which has collaborated several times with Bryars.

The libretto will be by Canadian writer Marilyn Bowering, based on her volume of Monroe poems, Anyone Can See I Love You.

The Times Colonist reports that Bryars's fascination with Monroe began after he saw her 1961 film The Misfits while a philosophy student at Sheffield College. He told the paper he sees Monroe as someone who was "incredibly human ... I do find her a tragic figure, but she's not a doomed figure."

Born in Yorkshire in 1943, Bryars in his younger days worked as a jazz bassist and collaborated with John Cage. His first major work as a composer was The Sinking of the Titanic in 1969; his most famous piece is Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971), composed for instrumental ensemble accompanying a tape loop of a tramp singing a short hymn. Bryars's first opera, Medea, was first staged in 1984 by director Robert Wilson at the Op_ra de Lyon and Op_ra de Paris. Other compositions include the operas Doctor Ox's Experiment and G, works for theater and dance, and a series of books of madrigals composed for vocal groups such as the Hilliard Ensemble, Red Byrd and Trio Mediaeval that usually specialize in early music.

There has already been at least one opera about Monroe. Marilyn, with music by Ezra Laderman (at the time dean of the Yale University School of Music) and libretto by Norman Rosten, received its world premiere at New York City Opera in 1993.

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