Commissioned by Opéra d'Avignon. The world premiere took place at Opéra d'Avignon on 5 May 2023

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  • SATB
  • light soprano, lyric soprano, mezzo-soprano, folk singer, baritone, dancer, child actor
  • 1 hr 20 min

Programme Note

Three Lunar Seas tells three parallel stories about three of the big issues of our changing times: the question of having children in a world where the future is uncertain; the impact of disease on our social relationships; and our responsibility towards the environmental crisis. Each narrative takes inspiration from one of the so-called lunar ‘seas’ (here the Sea of Fertility, the Sea of Tranquility and the Sea of Serenity), as well as ancient tales of the moon. The figure of the moon, ever hovering above us, lends an eternal, transcendental dimension to these societal questions. 


Ben (librettist) and I wanted to talk about some of the crucial issues of our times, about living in a time of change, when the future is particularly uncertain. We also wanted stories with female characters at the core. The three stories ask questions without giving clear answers, hoping to spark reflection in the audience’s own minds.” Josephine Stephenson


She (mezzo-soprano, thirties)
Her (light soprano, thirties)
Cynthia (lyric soprano, fifties)
Midwife/Night Watchman (barytone, thirties)
Serena (folk singer, teenager)
He (dancer, fifties)
mani (child actor)



In the Sea of Fertility, inspired by the Brothers Grimm story Der Mond und seine Mutter, a couple of women go through the hope of having a child, the sadness and bitter disappointment of a miscarriage and the difficult decision as to whether to keep trying. 

In the Sea of Tranquility, inspired by the myth of Selene and Endymion, Cynthia and her partner are increasingly separated by his development of a neuro-degenerative disease. She understands that their relationship is changing into that of her existing in the waking world while he increasingly exists only in a version of sleep and dream, and questions its future.

In the Sea of Serenity, a young activist trespasses onto private land to film the place where poisonous material is entering the ocean and putting her community in danger. A night watchman notices her and realises what she is doing. He hesitates about whether to stop her and turn her in. 



The stories are told as contrasting fragments, intercut with one another. All three exist as separate narratives woven into a single world, and follow the structure of a Moon’s cycle around the Earth. The chorus acts both as a traditional Greek chorus commenting on the action, and as a mirror of society. 


Joséphine Stephenson, Léo Warynski and Frédéric Roels talk about Three Lunar Seas


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