An Opera in Five Acts
Libretto and music by
Steven L. Jobe
My approach to the story is based on the Roman de Mélusine by Jean d’Arras (late 14th c.) which is itself based on European folktales. The d’Arras version is an epic tale, recounting the marriage of the fairy Melusine to the mortal Raimondin as well as the adventures of their various offspring, most of whom go off to fight in the Crusades. My telling of the story, in five acts, focuses almost entirely on the relationship between Melusine and Raimondin wherein, amid all manner of deception, illusion and delusion, they endeavor to know and understand each other.
I have been inspired by the Melusine story for many years. In the mid 1980s, after reading The Wandering Unicorn (by Manuel Lainez), a story narrated by the Melusine character, I co-founded a Medieval and Renaissance band named after her. In the summer of 1990, we visited Lusignan, France to pay homage to our namesake and the elements of both the narrative and the memories of that magical, druidical spot (filled with oaks and mistletoe) have been fermenting in my psyche ever since.
The tale of a human-fairy who permutates into half-woman, half-serpent on a weekly basis is provocative and mysterious in ways that suggest that there is more, much more to it than meets the eye. In my reading, I found that Melusine, a shape-shifting symbol of transformation and creativity, has been an object of inquiry since the alchemists of the Middle Ages all the way through to modern ‘alchemists’ such as C.G. Jung. Much material to work with, but with the goal of an opera in mind, I chose to focus on the romance, the love story of Melusine and Raimondin.
But how does one convey a character who is half human, half fairy as well as a goddess figure of some kind? I have sketched the outlines of Melusine in this version, hoping that the music provides color and nuance that can’t be (or shouldn’t be) articulated in words. The story is mostly from the perspective of her husband, Raimondin. His is a hero’s journey, which I can’t claim to have made, but is one that I can at least attempt to put into words.
As if it were all quite true, this story of Melusine and Raimondin speaks to us of love, of men and women and how we see each other. Of how we all see the world and the striking importance of that. How our continued survival as citizens of this planet may depend on inspired vision, deep listening and choices filled with love and compassion. Through these, may we all find safe harbor…and delight!
Daniela Tosic, alto Storytelling Woman
Fredric Scheff, tenor Raimondin
Kara Lund, soprano Melusine
Sharon Key, soprano Melusine’s sister, Palatine
Mariami Bekauri, alto Melusine’s sister, Melior
Joel McCoy, tenor Raimondin’s friend, Etienne
Frederick Jodry, baritone Raimondin’s friend, Aymeris
Laura Gulley violin; music director
Rob Bethel cello
Hyunjung Choi orchestral harp
Dawn Chung pipe organ
Catherine Hawkes recorders
Bruce Hopkins trumpet, piccolo trumpet, corno da caccia
Matt McLaren drums and glass bells
Chris Monti Drone Machine, Bosch Hurdy-Gurdy
Dan Pelletier vibraphone
Rachel Rosenkrantz Bosch Hurdy-Gurdy (and lights)
Chris Sadlers string bass, Bosch Hurdy-Gurdy
Chris Turner harmonica, bagpipes