Hear music from this piece:
Never stop writing me letters. You make me feel like my higher self.
Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell
That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love;
It is enough, the freight should be
Proportioned to the groove.
The Umbrella is part masque, part romantic comedy; a formal consideration of the ways in which we are all susceptible to the stranger who might return us to our better selves, that is our loved and loving selves.
The Umbrella, like a snow-shaker or a dome, creates its own world, one which might be construed as pure escapism or simply pure. The opera will combine sym-metry and cycle with emotional eruption to show how our psychological sophistication counts for nothing at the moment when we recognise our dreams, and how our dreams are undermined by our insight into them.
Franz and Sylvie love one another, or so they think until the Lover comes into their lives: the Platonic other, the perfect romance. The Lover sings the enchantment:
It's just a little rain, it's nothing.
Like love, we feel it fall.
It passes, that is all.
Sylvie begins to crack and Franz to close down in response to the inner disturbance that the Lover creates, but both feel compelled to pursue it. Each searches for the Lover, who leads them back towards one another through a confusion in which they learn how hard it is to tell whom this feeling is for: The ideal? Each other?
Franz and Sylvie are left speechless and unable to sing. They have to go into the dark, to begin again without any vision of love. They feel their way towards one another and recover something - a connection which cannot be articulated, with someone who cannot be wholly known: 'No vision of love, just a hand in the dark.' They set off back into the rain. All around them, the same thing is happening - a meeting with the stranger who might be the one. It is vital and routine. There is no umbrella.
First violins (3), second violins (3), violas (2), cellos (2), double bass, percussion, piano
Trip to Moscow.
Have a baby!'
Back to London.
Prose is harder.
Umbrella's image everywhere
Rain and snow.
Slowness, silence, textures, jokes
Three quotations in five bars:
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Othello, Tristan.
Sudden change of instrumentation -
No chorus, no winds
Voices, strings and some percussion.
The Lover's timbres -
Harpsichord, viola, whistle,
Violin and string harmonics.
Pipes at home drawn on C-sharp.
Text - like basso ostinato.
Pizzicatos good for rain
March: 'Rain.' Anything else? 'A couple under an umbrella.'
April: 'It's much sadder than your first version.'
May: In Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, they can even sing about repairing a car without sounding stupid.
June: It's not going to be ironic. 'It's ironic.'
August: 'So what is this opera about?' That Love is all there is, Is all we know of Love. (Dickinson)
September: If she's all over the place, tucking her skirt into her knickers and bursting into song, what's he going to do? He's going to do up a coat: plenty of buttons, a long coat. Slips of the tongue, forgetting the word, 'My um . . . my um . . .'
October: 'How's The Umbrella?' It's making me sad. 'Is there a lot of you in it?' . . . we could manage cocktails out of ice and water . . . (O'Hara)
November: The night of a thousand umbrellas. Every-one who holds one has to be in love, or wanting love. Nietzsche, in a margin: I have forgotten my umbrella.
December: What makes a short love story? How to allow for the waiting, for what you canÂ¹t make happen or change? A long moment of pouring rain.
January: A phrase played on the piano over the phone. Everything unsaid.
February: The enchantment is easy. How to break it?
by Elena Langer and Lavinia Greenlaw
The word 'collaboration' makes us nervous. We worry that we are not doing it properly. We phone, email, meet in cafés and go for walks; we talk about houses, illness, clothes, lovers and grandmothers. We exchange reference points: The Queen of Spades and Brief Encounter. It seems that Les Parapluies de Cherbourg is cult viewing in Russia. We discuss the opera of course, but neither of us has been in the same room as the other as they were writing it. It's a pattern of talking together and then working alone, which means that sometimes we don't communicate for weeks.
Every conversation we have becomes a refinement of the opera's argument and it seems that if we agree on that, then we trust what each is going to make of it in words and music. We talk a lot about restraint, lightness, patience and silence; as if we were working our way towards a shape by setting limits on its substance. It also suggests that we connect primarily through pattern, tone and texture.
The Umbrella has been deceptively simple from the start. As it falls into place, it keeps on revealing itself. Now we must judge the point at which it makes itself clear.
Sound and Music have announced that Café Oto will be part of a two-year initiative exploring the public’s appetite for new music commissions.More...