Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem
24th March 2015
Murder mysteries have a rather widespread and timeless appeal onstage and off. Picking up on the international success and public fascination with contemporary murder mysteries such as NPR's "Serial" and HBO's "The Jinx" we bring you tales of murder, unexplained disappearances, and modern crimes of passion for performance in darkened rooms. Listen to selections on Spotify:
Two Boys (2010)Loosely inspired by a true case, Two Boys explores the realities and risks of living our lives online. A teenage boy is fatally stabbed. Another boy is caught on CCTV leaving the scene. As the Detective Inspector Anne Strawson investigates the older boy's story, she uncovers a bizarre nexus of chatroom meetings, false identities, fictitious spy rings and raunchy cybersex, leading to just one conclusion: it wasn't so much murder as suicide by Internet.
The Emperor Jones (1933)
Watch an excerpt on YouTubeEx-con Brutus Jones escapes to the West Indies, sets himself up as a tyrannical "Emperor” and becomes rich by exploiting the natives. As they revolt, he attempts escape but is haunted by visions of the man he previously murdered. He commits suicide using his good luck charm: a silver bullet.
Winter's Tale (1974)Based on a Shakespeare play, Time introduces us to Leontes, (King of Sicilia), his wife Hermione, their son Mamillius, Polixenes (King of Bohemia), and Camillo (Lord of Sicilia). They engage in a plot encompassing conflicting deceits, jealousies, murders and redemption, ending with the relief of redemption from human error.
Peter Maxwell Davies
The Lighthouse (1979)Scotland, 1900. Three officers from a lighthouse ship report to a Court of Enquiry how they arrived to relieve three keepers and found the place deserted. We flashback to the keepers who are working longer than usual, and calm their nerves by singing 'set piece' songs that express their individual guilt. They see the arrival of a blinding light out of the fog as the Antichrist, in which they are replaced by the relief officers: the mystery is unresolved.
Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt (2012)In 1897, 20-year-old Isabelle Eberhardt left her life in Switzerland for a nomadic existence in North Africa. She traveled through the desert on horseback, documenting her travels in detailed journals and short stories, all while dressing and behaving like a man of the time. After her death seven years later in a flash flood, her writings were found and preserved.
Gian Carlo Menotti
The Saint of Bleecker Street (1954)Set in NYC's Catholic Little Italy of 1954, Menotti's opera follows Annina, a woman blessed with the hearing of voices, stigmata, and visions of angels. The neighborhood believes her to be a saint while her atheist brother Michele believes she requires medical attention, and attempts to prevent her taking the veil. Later, when Michele refuses to acknowledge his girlfriend Desideria, she accuses him of having an unnatural love for his sister. Michele stabs Desideria to death. Annina goes through with the religious ceremony, then dies.
Blond Eckbert (1993)Eckbert and wife Berthe live in seclusion in the Harz Moutains. One stormy night, Eckbert's friend Walther arrives and (for entertainment) Berthe tells him her life story. Walther mysteriously knows much of her story and Eckbert's suspicions grow, leading him to murder Walther. He later encounters the old woman who raised Berthe, and learns the terrible truth about Walther, Berthe, and himself.
Watch excerpts on YouTube:
The Fall of the House of Usher (1988)Roderick Usher lives as a recluse in his ancestral home with his twin sister Madeline, who eventually dies under mysterious circumstances. She is buried in a vault beneath the house. While visiting with a friend, Roderick is faced by Madeline who has clawed her way out of her grave, and the House of Usher collapses around them.
Selma Jezková, an opera based on Lars von Trier's film 'Dancer in the Dark' (2007)USA, 1963. Selma, a factory worker, is going blind due to an eye disease. Her son Glen suffers from the same disease, but can be cured with an operation for which she is saving money. Her broke landlord attempts to steal it, and promises she will only get it back if she shoots him (which she does.) She is convicted to death by hanging, but refuses to reveal the circumstances of the murder, and sacrifices herself to save her son.
Stewart Copeland double-bill
Tell Tale Heart (2010)An unnamed narrator insists on his sanity after murdering an old man with a 'vulture eye.' The murder was carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body under the floorboards after dismembering it. His guilt manifests itself in the hallucination that the man's heart is still beating under the floorboards.
The Cask of Amontillado (1993)In an Italian city at carnival, Montresor takes fatal revenge on a friend (Fortunato) who, he believes, has insulted him. He lures him to a catacomb promising him rare brandy (Amontillado). He buries him alive in the wall, later admitting that the whole affair happened fifty years ago, and nobody has found out.
Søren Nils Eichberg
Glare (2014)"Alex's new girlfriend, Lea, is perfect — too perfect. He begins to feel uneasy in her presence, but she doesn't understand why. Christina, Alex's ex, warns Lea that he could be dangerous. Alex's friend Michael agrees that Lea's behavior is unnatural, and explains that Lea is a machine. Alex, terrified, finally confronts Lea…"
— Rachel Beaumont, Royal Opera House
the difficulty of crossing a field (1999)A slave owner in the pre-civil war American South walks across his field and disappears, in plain view of his family, his neighbors and his slaves, forever altering the relationships among them. Everyone around him has his or her own sharp view of what that disappearance means, of why it had to happen, and of what will happen now that there is a 'hole' where a man used to be.
Thomas Agerfeldt Olesen
The Picture of Dorian Gray (2013)
Watch another excerpt on YouTubeAfter painting a full-length oil portrait of the beautiful Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward introduces him to the hedonist Lord Wotton. Dorian is enticed, and sells his soul to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade so as to pursue a libertine life of amoral experiences. Meanwhile, his portrait ages and records every soul-corrupting sin.
More Musical Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem:
The Juniper Tree (1985)The famous Grimm fairy tale tells of a Wicked Stepmother who murders her stepson and serves him up in a stew to his unsuspecting father. The boy's sister buries her brother's bones under a Juniper Tree, and the child's spirit returns as a singing bird who wreaks vengeance on the evil Stepmother before being restored to life in the bosom of his family.
Who put Bella in the Wych elm? (2003)This haunting mystery is based on the true story of the discovery in 1943 of the decaying body of a 35-year-old mother stuffed down an old wych elm in Birmingham. One of her hands had been cut off, suggesting the possibility of a black magic ritual. To this day nothing is known about the identity of 'Bella,' as she was named posthumously by local graffiti artists, nor of the child that she was reported to have had.
Blood Wedding (1992)In a remote Spanish village two young people are to marry. The bride has accepted the proposal of the well-to-do bridegroom as a way to move up in society. She is still in love with her ex-sweetheart Leonardo who comes from a family which has long feuded with that of the groom. On their wedding day, the bride runs away with Leonardo, and the groom pursues them. The two young men kill each other.
Heart of Darkness (2011)Marlow, a sea captain, tells the tale of his journey up-river in the equatorial forest to find Kurtz, the once idealistic ivory trader who is rumored to have developed his remote station into a barbaric fiefdom. This god-like warlord is however, when discovered, a dying husk. Marlow is witness to his end, which he is committed to give an account of to Kurtz’s fiancée on his return. He cannot tell her the truth.
Ghost Patrol (2012)Britain is at war in a distant land; a general air of militarism has infected the nation. Ex-army comrades Sam and Alasdair are unexpectedly reunited after three years separation. Their meeting reignites a bond forged from danger, privation and a shared secret, which if revealed, could expose both of them to disgrace and prosecution. The need to keep their secret pulls the men together, but their differing responses to the shame of it threatens to pull them apart.