2017 (appx. 63 mins)
Opera in one act and seven tableaux
Libretto and music by the composer
Belle – mezzo-soprano
Bête – bass
* The role of Narrator can be spoken by The Beast
2 Flutes (II doubling Alto Flute), Alto Flute, 2 Oboes, Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons, Contra Bassoon
4 Horns, 3 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Bass Trombone, Tuba
Percussion (3 players – Timpani, Xylophone, Vibraphone, 3 Suspended cymbals, 3 Gongs, Tam-tam, Hammer Blow (optional), Snare/Side Drum, 3 un-tuned drums of different size, Bass Drum)
Violins 1 (suggest 16)
Violins 2 (suggest 14)
Violas (suggest 12)
Cellos (suggest 9/10)
Basses (suggest 4/8)
This opera takes its inspiration from two sources. Firstly, from Béla Bartók’s one act opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, and secondly from Jean Cocteau’s mysterious and magical interpretation of La Belle et la Bête. This opera was written as a gift for my partner, Giuliana Gomiero.
Fairy tales almost always tell of an innately darker side to life, and they frequently give lessons in moral values, all seemingly wrapped up in a child’s magical imagination.
I had become immersed in Bartók’s masterpiece by creating a chamber version. I had delved deeper still into the added musical symbolism Bartók etches within his score, and I wanted to tell a different tale, but one in which the same sort of personal interplay between two principle characters evolves within the setting of a fantastical psychological drama. Beauty is curiously drawn to The Beast, just as Judith is to Bluebeard. But unlike Bluebeard, The Beast will not allow his own personal dilemma to harm others. The ending of this opera is left purposely unclear. We do not know whether The Beast survives or dies, we only know that Beauty recognises his true good nature. We also do not know to what extent she feels compassion or love for him.
The fact that there are seven tableaux within one act corresponds to Bluebeard’s seven doors. The length of each work is also comparable. Additionally, further elements of design and proportion are inspired by Bartók’s way of working. It is easy to see that La Belle et la Bête is personally intended as a companion piece to Bluebeard’s Castle.