Marilyn Forever

13 September 2013

A chamber opera in one act with libretto by Marilyn Bowering based on the last night of Marilyn Monroe's life.

For soprano (Marilyn), baritone (the Men) and two smaller choral parts "The Tritones" (tenor and bass). The score is for a small ensemble of eight players: 2 violas, cello, double bass, clarinet/bass clarinet, horn, basson, percussion, with the addition of an on-stage jazz trio: tenor saxophone, piano, double bass

Marilyn Forever

The opera was developed initially in 2010 through a workshop in Banff, Alberta and was eventually performed in Victoria BC on September 13 and 14 2013 with the Faroese singer Eivør Palsdottir in the title role, and with Danish singer Thomas Sandberg as "The Men. It was commisisoned by Aventa, whose director Bill Linwood has conducted all the performances to date.

It has been subsequently performed three times in Adelaide in February/March 2015, with a different cast; and shortly afterwards by Long Beach Opera in San Pedro, California in a different production, which used two singers for the title role.


The opera examines Marilyn Monroe's relationship to love, death and ambition as these are revealed during her passage from life to death, August 5th, 1962. As the work progresses, the performance interweaves what is taking place on stage with the trajectory of Monroe's life through relationships, fame and myth. Ultimately, the characters of the performers and men in her life fuse with the forces that have led to her death.


It is the night of August 5th, 1962. Marilyn's bedroom is entered by men who view her body and search through her belongings. Once they leave, Marilyn arises and quickly runs out. When she next appears she is on a rehearsal sound stage where waiting for her is the Rehearsal Director and the backing group, the Tritones, who have been reviewing her notorious history. The rehearsal begins. Marilyn reveals her feelings about love and beauty in a lyrical announcement to the performers of who she 'really' is. These are feelings she clings to despite the actualities of her life, and they set up inevitable contradictions as she obliterates her original identity as Norma Jean and creates the figure of Marilyn Monroe. Success comes with a price and the price is a slippage of identity and an engagement with the darker side of the movie business.

Marilyn's search for love persists alongside an ambition born from the memory of her mother's madness and abandonment of her as a child. The Rehearsal Director reflects her failed relationships and marriages, and as the contradictions she is living increase, Marilyn has a breakdown.  Her subsequent relationship with Arthur Miller gives her a chance to reform her life. He nurtures her intellect, and the countryside in which they live reawakens her love of nature. Most importantly, she believes that having children will allow her to be 'normal' and find fulfilling love. When she suffers a series of miscarriages and Arthur also returns to his work, the relationship is doomed.

To counter her sense of not belonging, Marilyn devotes herself to creating a home. Although she is trapped by and subject to the desires and dismissals of the powerful she retains a hold on her touchstones, her ideals of love and artistry. But she is also a Pandora's Box: the secrets of influential men to which she is party must not be released. The forces that have long threatened Marilyn overwhelm and destroy her.

Only after death are Marilyn's mythic and touching childhood selves free to find each other. It is only in death that she is seen with clarity and receives the pity and love for which she has longed. Her death seals her gift to others; she becomes an icon-a screen on which unlimited love and desire and beauty are projected: but of course it is a triumph in which Marilyn cannot participate.

1. Victoria performance


2. Long Beach performance