• Stephen McNeff
  • Vivienne (2013)
    (An Opera in six songs)

  • Peters Edition Limited (World)
  • Mz + pf
  • Mezzo-soprano
  • 35 min
  • Andy Rashleigh
  • English

Programme Note

1. Before Tom "We are the dancing girls"

2. Eliot Erect "How did I woo thee"

3. The Land of Lost Content "Why did you change, Tom?"

4. Bertie "Bertie's philosopher and pacifist of note"

5. Through the Darkness I Can Hear... "Won't they let you come to see me?"

6. Belladonna "Belladonna, Queen of Cups"


Composer's Note
Vivienne Haigh-Wood married T. S. Eliot in June 1915 against the wishes of her family. Their marriage was disastrous from the start, and dominated by her ill-health. It became clear that each had misread the other's hopes and ambitions: Vivienne longed to escape the social conventions that Eliot enthusiatically embraced as he was elevated to the literary Establishment. However, their shared belief in his future as a poet held them together and their co-dependence provided rich creative inspiration even as their marriage was falling apart. Eliot later wrote: "To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land." Vivienne's fears that Eliot's success was taking him away from her put huge pressure on their relationship as her behaviour became more erratic. Eliot was already considering a separation when he was offered a one-year fellowship at Harvard in 1932. On his return to London he was shielded from any contact with Vivienne by his Bloomsbury friends. Vivienne's family arranged for her committal to an asylum. She remained there until her death in 1947. Eliot never visited her.
The work was written to be staged.

First performance at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith on 8 August 2013 as part of the Tête à Tête Opera Festival. 
The performers were Clare McCaldin, mezzo-soprano, and Libby Burgess, piano. The production was directed by Joe Austin, designed by Simon Kenny.