Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An Opera I'd Love To Write

At the end of the 18th century Samuel Tayler Coleridge wrote a dramatic poem titled The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. A greybearded old sailor tells of how, many years ago, he had gone on an initially exhilarating voyage into the unexplored southern ocean. The greatest marvel they found there was a beautiful white albatross which followed their ship. In a reckless moment the mariner shot the albatross. From then on, a terrible curse fell over the voyage. The ship is becalmed, surrounded by terrifying sea-monsters. A spectral vision of another ship approaches, with Death on board. The mariner sees his shipmates all die, one by one, of hunger and thirst. When all seems lost, the mariner is looking down at a mass of sea-snakes crawling around the ship. Moved by seeing the only living beings apart from himself, he croaks out a blessing on them. The ship returns to ghostly life as a mysterious wind springs up, carrying it back within sight of home; at which point it sinks, leaving the mariner to be carried to shore, half dead, but repentant of his crime. Today the story may well be read as a metaphor on the reckless destruction of nature, and the eventual self-revelation of the perpetrator.


  1. Yes, that really would be a good story for an opera.

  2. The first part of this story I like very much. It is strong and clear and fresh and related to timeless imagination and experience, like in Joseph Conrad and Homer. But then the story becomes part of a dream, of the northern beclouded kind, whose feature reminds me to the Flying Dutchman and Parsifal, and the result is not so much a cathartic experience of pain and awareness but sentimental confusion and introversion, which I do not like so much. Maybe it is possible to change the second part. It should be more banal and as well more enchanting. The best would be an ambiguous story where a mystic interpretation is calling but a realistic interpretation remains possible. More sun, more rain, less clouds.


  3. I would love a plot where repentance arrives after the return of serenity. The returning serenity would be like the record of the albatros symbolizing serenity. But now the albatros is dead and can only cause a metamorphosis in the captain. Without the kick of a punishing wise and perfect nature, which is a dreary pattern that has been overdone so often. Evident are only some events, the startled reactions of mankind and uncertainty.