Report by Alexia A, 6 June 2015

2 people attended (Alexia and Catherine)

Alexia is a librettist, Catherine is a composer, the two have worked together successfully in the past.

Alexia called the session because she feels that some composers (not all!) don't understand/ respect the text in opera.

Alexia believes that in opera, music drives the emotional arch of the piece, meaning the librettist depends on the composer to ‘finish’ the work; unlike when a composer uses an existing poem etc. Some composers are more interested in text as pattern than meaning.

Catherine argued that some librettists create unstagable/ settable text without an understanding of singers and without leaving space for emotional development within the music. Catherine also pointed out that it is possible to compose vocal work using sounds without words; words should be responded to and not be there as aural decoration.

In the end, Alexia and Catherine agree that collaboration is key - if the composer does not want to have a two-way conversation with the writer at an early stage, they may as well set an existing text and stop wasting the writer's time. (And some composers should stick to writing orchestral work!) If the writer isn't going to leave space for the composer to develop the work, they could think about writing poetry or plays instead.


composers, opera, Composers, Opera, librettists