• Donnacha Dennehy
  • The Second Violinist (2017)

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)

Commissioned by Landmark Productions and Wide Open Opera

The premiere production of The Second Violinist was awarded Fedora's 2017 Generali Prize for Opera

  • Ensemble of 14 players
  • SATB chorus (16 singers)
  • S, Mz, Bar, actor (man), child (14-year old girl)
  • 1 hr 30 min

Programme Note

Synopsis:
The story centers on the character of the second violinist, Martin. He starts to experience a mental breakdown as a performance approaches. The stage is divided into 3 areas: the orchestra pit — out of which he climbs; a main stage representing an apartment; and above this, a forest. Martin has a lonely existence of practice, bus journeys, unanswered phone calls. On the main stage, a married couple, Matthew and Amy, and their houseguest, Hannah, sing. Martin circles around this opera playing out, avoiding calls from his agent, and others. He's turning his back on his life and work — his playing for the ensemble is increasingly terrible. In moments of desperation a single voice reaches out from his screen and we read the typed correspondence. The forest above him increasingly enters his dreams. All the time, on the main stage, it becomes apparent that Matthew and Amy's marriage is not in a good state, and that Amy has fallen in love with Hannah. Matthew discovers this, and murders both of them in revenge. At this point we become aware that Matthew is another version of Martin, that they are both the second violinist. He now arranges to meet the voice that was reaching out to him — in the forest. It's a 14-year old girl who has come to meet a 14-year old boy. Here he will end things.

Composer note:
Subtext is as important as text to me. The music, as it were, powers the subtext; and an important ingredient in the music for The Second Violinist is a thread made of deconstructed, re-fashioned strains of Gesualdo. The main protagonist’s interest in the music of Gesualdo is sporadically made explicit in the actual text of this opera (especially in the projected messages between him and Scarlett38) but it carries even greater portent in the score. These strains even inform the flowering overtone textures that become ever more radiant as the opera proceeds, creating a friction between the almost ecstatic luminosity of the score and the brutal reality of the plot. This contradiction of course lies at the heart of the real life story of Gesualdo, the Renaissance composer – his yearning, beautifully strange music seems to be in stark contradiction to his grubby real-life act of killing his wife and her lover.

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