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A Monodrama

Part one of a tetralogy

Most operatic life is born by adaptation; the very birth of drama itself seems to be in the retelling of the stories everyone already knew. How they are told, not what they are. Medea’s Cell, the first in a trilogy of modern myths, each one a monodrama, is a kind of ‘back to basics’ journey. How can you retell the oldest stories in a thoroughly modern context? How can you find the language, verbal, dramatic and musical, to contact these great archetypal, age-worn issues? Our Medea concerns a poor woman held in the holding cell on death row, the night she will die. Somewhere in my mind lingers various tragic and horrifying recent news items of women who have murdered through jealousy and love. More sickening still is the idea of the death sentence. As with any other thriller, with the clock ticking, the only question that matters in any such case is what really went on between these people? Is our protagonist innocent or guilty? And if so, guilty of what?

It has long since been clear to me that at some Lieder recitals, with exceptional performers I have witnessed some of the best acting I have seen anywhere. Eyes, word colouring, tone, intimate gestures, when astutely focused, as though performing a close-up on film, can be unbearably potent. One thing was clear from the start; we wanted these pieces, whether performed in a local hall or on an illustrious main stage, to be acted out, to be real dramas between a performer, the ensemble and their public.


30 minutes
Keith Warner
1 Soprano, 1 Alto Saxophone, 1 Trumpet in B-flat (=trumpet in C), 1 Piano, 1 Violin (=viola)
Composition date