Billesdon March 18th 1994

Dear Jane,

Thanks for your call asking me for a tape of Medea. I enclose 2 DATs (I assume that DAT is suitable) being the two halves of Medea. This was recorded at the final dress rehearsal before the first performance at the Opéra de Lyon -this explains why there are many camera clicks at the moment where scene changes happen. I have put a track ID at the beginning of each act rather than for each scene.

There are a few small differences between this and what was actually performed 3 days later. The choral scene which begins Act 4 was cut because the choreography of the dance which accompanied the scene was so banal (like a vernacular taverna dance), and the orchestral music for the opening of Act 5 was also cut. This was because the scene used a puppet falling from a cliff in flames and it simply looked ridiculous. I think the orchestral music is actually not bad (Richard Bernas, the conductor, thinks it is one of the best things in the opera!). In addition, I have taken out the whole Prologue from this tape. If ever Medea is done again I would re-write the Prologue. Bob Wilson had said that the Prologue was to be a series of visual pictures with only occasional musical fragments - and that was what I did. In the event, the pictures went on for so long (about 25 minutes) that the music assumed an importance disproportionate to its acoustic merits. I have left in, however, the lengthy spoken scene at the end of Act 4, where there is a sort of academic discussion about the piece by the cast (this was a particular theatrical device which Bob included, but which was under-rehearsed and, here, does not work very well at all). In the actual performance it was much tighter but I decided to leave it on the tape. Here, in fact, it was the first time that the spoken text and the music had been put together and Richard Bernas decided to play all of the music, even though the text was much shorter than the music. If you want to pass over it, fast-forward to the ID for Act 5.... The gaps between sections, where they happen, are due to temporary problems with scene changing and did not happen in performance. It was curious to listen to it again after all this time and I enjoyed quite a lot of it. The language moves between Greek and French - originally between Greek and English but I had to re-write several sections in French shortly before the first performance, and the first scene in Act 3 was completely new for that occasion. As you know, it was originally to be done for La Fenice in Venice in September 1982, but was cancelled at a late stage. For that production Medea was to have been sung by Wilhelminia Fernandez and the opening of Act 3 was to have been a relaxed pseudo jazz style piece with two black singers. When it was recast for Lyon and Yvonne Kenny (a white Australian) sang the part this scene did not work at all and so I wrote a new one, directly in French. Two of the cast are, in fact, Greek (the Nurse and the Tutor). Yvonne Kenny and the French singer (François Le Roux) who sang the part of the Messenger have now become quite famous. The full cast was: Yvonne Kenny (Medea), Louis Otey (Jason), Stephen Cole (Creon), Pierre Yves le Maigat (Aegeus), François Le Roux (Messenger), Maria Marketou (Nurse), Frangiscos Voliotis (Tutor), with the chorus and orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon conducted by Richard Bernas.

Gavin Bryars.