. . . The fact that the bulk of Bryars' first opera is set in Greek automatically lends the work an air of detachment - in much the same way that Stravinsky's use of Latin gives an objective quality to his sacred music for the opera Oedipus Rex.
In Medea, that intrinsic quality is emphasised by Bryars' depiction of the wronged and betrayed eponymous 'heroine', not as a vengeful hysteric, but as supercool, almost dislocated from all around her. . . Crashing headlong into this detached objectivity was the music itself, hour after hour of sumptuous, tonally gorgeous music.
This music, despite the pulsing minimalistic nature of much of it, is saturated with a sensuous romanticism that derives directly from the most voluptuous music of Richard Strauss. The local lines, endlessly soaring, were of an unremitting lyrical and emotional intensity.
The collision between the two poles - absolute detachment and the most intimate subjectivity - produced a tension that was so intoxicating it was almost tangible. . .
(from Michael Tumelty's review after the concert performance of Medea in Glasgow in 1995)
Original version ( 1982, revised 1984).
Duration: c. 3 hours 45'
Opera ( libretto after Euripides.) Direction and design: Robert Wilson. Dedicated to Richard Bernas.
7 soloists (soprano, contralto, tenor, 3 baritones, bass).
Chorus (SATB). Orchestra: 3 (piccolo, alto). 0. 3 (E flat, 2 bass clarinet). 2 (contrabassoon). ; 4.0.1 (bass).1.; 2 saxophones (alto/soprano, alto/tenor); 2 harps, piano; timpani + 5 percussion (see Percussion for details); strings (no violins; 10 violas, 8 or 10 cello, 4 or 6 basses
First performance: Opéra de Lyon, France, 23 October 1984. Subsequent performances at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées Paris (co-production: Opéra de Lyon, Opéra de Paris, Festival d'Automne).
Revised version (1995).
Duration: c. 2 hours 45'
First (concert) performance of the final version: Tramway, Glasgow, 3 November 1995.