C a t h i e   B o y d

In 2003 Daniel Danis and I were resident at Cove Park, an artists’ retreat overlooking Loch Long in Scotland, to talk about the idea of an opera. Daniel started by asking me what should be the focus of the work. My reply was simple: I’m curious what happens to us after we die.
   Daniel chose to set the story on Haiti. He had spent time there as an 18-year-old working in an orphanage and it clearly had a profound effect on his life. Although he chose Haiti, the story feels as though it could be any small island in the world. This is mainly due to Daniel’s cosmopolitan representation of the characters – their names, occupations and life experiences.
   At the 2002 Aldeburgh Festival I first came across Yannis’ music with the live performance of a conSPIracy cantata. It is always a privilege to be introduced to a composer’s work live in performance, particularly, as in this case, it was not in a concert hall but in a disused military bunker.  On studying Daniel’s text I felt Yannis Kyriakides was the perfect composer for this work as his sound world seems close to Daniel’s poetic language. Much discussion followed; who would speak and who would sing. Over time we agreed that singing would be the language of the dead and only Kiev would speak as she is the only person alive.
   Having worked with many cultures, I feel it is impossible to direct a work without experiencing it first hand. We can read books and watch videos, but we need to smell, see and taste a culture to really understand it. In January 2008 I visited Haiti and was able to observe and be involved in its extraordinary culture. Haiti is only four hours from Miami and borders the Dominican Republic, yet they are poles apart politically, culturally and economically. Haiti became the world’s first independent ‘Black Republic’ in 1804, and we cannot forget that the Haitian slaves drove out Napoleon and his army. Haitians know how to win and will fight to the bitter end. Haiti is a country turned upside down.

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