• pf/vc
  • Soprano, Tenor
  • 3 min

Programme Note

Commissioned by Six Word Operas at the Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival. Premiered by Natalie Raybould (soprano), James Young and Matthew West (piano) and Rosalind Acton (cello) on the 11th August 2011 at Riverside Studios, London, as part of the the 2011 Festival.

For an example of extraordinary vocal bravura one need look no further then the soaring and febrilely falling phrases of You Promised Me Everything Last Night (2011), for soprano, cello and piano duet, which sets just those six words that make up the title (in fact the work's subtitle is "six words, two chords, many melismas"). The music imagines, as if going through the course of an entire (and sadly, it would seem, short-lived) relationship, every possible meaning or implication or inflexion that might be given to the phrase: on the face of it a romantic cliché, virtually emptied of meaning by repetition, and yet in the context of love and passion, always new.

The composer's own expressive directions trace the emotional trajectory (joyfully, wistfully, idealistically, somewhat gloriously ... gradually turning to ... desperation and ... anger, self-reproach, disbelief, sadness ... and desolation). While the voice is the focus of motion and activity, it seems trapped by the indifferent hymn-like harmonies of the accompaniment, immune from or uncaring about joy or sorrow. The work begins and ends on a triad of A major, but the desolate ending holds back the consolation of the major third until the voice's last note.​

© Malcolm MacDonald