calypso (2013)

Libretto by Samuel Yeo

 

Opera in 7 scenes

Calypso - Mezzo Soprano, performed by Lotte Betts-Dean & Stefanie Dingnis in the 2013 premiere performance

Odysseys - Tenor, performed by Daniel Todd 

Uriel - Baritone, performed by Michael Lampard

Artemis - Soprano, performed by Rosemary Ball

Athena - Soprano, performed by Janet Todd

 

Fl./A.Fl./Picc./Sop.Rec./Al.Rec. Fl/Picc. C.A. Cl. B.Cl. Pno./Hpd. Hp. Vln. Vla. Vlc. D.B.

 

Commissioned and premiered by Forest Collective

dur. 40”

 

"Lawson’s music is, bar to bar, beautiful. Making the most of his small ensemble, he was able to achieve a variety of surprising effects, displaying a keen knowledge of the limitations of his ensemble."

- Alexander O'Sullivan, Partial Durations

 

2013 Production 

Musical Director - Evan Lawson

Assistant Musical Director - Simon Bruckard & Luke Paulding

Directed and Design - Stephanie Ozstreciher

Stefanie Dingnis, Rosemary Ball, Lotte Betts-Dean and Janet Todd from the publicity post for Calypso with Forest Collective, 2013

Stefanie Dingnis, Rosemary Ball, Lotte Betts-Dean and Janet Todd from the publicity post for Calypso with Forest Collective, 2013

Synopsis

On a desolate island, Odysseus - the warrior of the world - stumbles ashore after a shipwreck, another obstacle in his interminable quest to return home to his wife Penelope following the end of the Trojan War. Despairing at his surroundings, Odysseus collapses from his wounds. He is found by handmaidens of the princess Calypso and carried to her tower.

Days later, Calypso watches over Odysseus' unconscious form while a medicine woman brews potions. Unbeknownst to the mortals, this woman is actually the goddess Athena, companion to heroes. After years of loneliness and rejection, the orphaned Calypso has quickly fallen in love with the hero, and believes that as soon as he wakes he will fall in love with her too. Her loyal manservant, Uriel, reminds his mistress of better days but to no avail.

As Calypso sits and waits, Athena is joined by her sister, Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. The goddesses coyly play with the sleeping body of Odysseus. Artemis mocks the mortals and their petty lives, outraged that a mere nobody could ever dream of being worthy of such a hero. Athena, however, recognises her sister's bitterness as jealousy and ignorance, and attempts to be more compassionate about the human's chances. The pair recall magnificent events from their youth, soaring across the skies and transforming into animals - experiences no mortal can begin to imagine. Artemis ominously claims to speak for Zeus: no island princess can stand in the way of what the gods have decreed.

Calypso recites her lifelong dreams to the sleeping hero. Uriel enters, hoping to lure her out into the square where travelling players and dancing bears are entertaining the people. The princess' mind is elsewhere, recalling the tragic death of her mother in a storm, and the words of a strange, itinerant priestess many years ago: Calypo's life is bound to one man, and he will make her life complete. Uriel humours her delusions but he knows the truth too well: he himself is the man who has loved her all his life, and yet her thoughts have always been elsewhere.

As Odysseus stirs, Calypso is surrounded by the others. Artemis demands that she kill herself like her mother did: the only fitting fate for an unloved heroine in a Greek tragedy. Athena begs her to defy the gods, and pursue Odysseus even against his will. Uriel patiently puts forward his argument that there is a third choice: the choice to walk away from dreams and myths, and reach out her hand for life and love here on earth.

Odysseus wakes suddenly. Calypso's companions scatter and disappear as if they had never been. Undaunted by his surroundings, Odysseus strides toward the water. His goal is many leagues away, and there is a boat on the horizon he can claim. Unseen, Calypso watches as her dream love walks into the waves.

She reaches out her hand...

- Samuel Yeo