MY ANCIENT-THEMED LYRE MUSIC TO FEATURE IN RUFUS WAINWRIGHT'S SECOND OPERA, "HADRIAN"!

I am delighted to finally be able to officially announce, that the Grammy Award winning composer, Rufus Wainwright, has adapted one of my ancient-themed lyre compositions, "Hymn to Zeus" , in two scenes of his ancient Roman-themed second opera, "Hadrian" - produced by the Canadian Opera Company and which premiered at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, on 13th October 2018!




My collaboration with Rufus Wainwright & the main inspiration behind my ancient-themed lyre music, has been featured in a story in the "The Globe and Mail" - one of the biggest daily newspapers in Canada!


 



My official credits, to be printed in the score and in the program on the main crediting page along with all cast and creative, for the performances of "Hadrian" at the Canadian Opera Company and in programs at all subsequent productions, in perpetuity, are:

 

"Ancient Lyre music adapted from a theme, Hymn to Zeus, by Michael Levy. Used by permission"


Here is a complete online version of the program for the world premiere of "Hadrian" - the full program for the opera starts at page 14 of this PDF, which details all the Canadian Opera Company's productions for the fall of 2018.

 





HOW RUFUS WAINWRIGHT CAME TO ADAPT MY ANCIENT LYRE THEME

On 27th April 2017, I was contacted by Cori Ellison, who is serving on behalf of Canadian Opera in Toronto as the dramaturg for the production of ‘Hadrian’:

“Mr. Wainwright has become acquainted with your work, particularly the 'Hymn to Zeus', and would very much like to incorporate a few musical quotations from that piece and perhaps some others in his opera. Might you be amenable to that?”

A telephone conference was arranged between myself, Rufus and Cori on 25th May 2017, whilst Rufus was still on tour in Bergen! During the course of the conversation, Rufus told me he particularly liked my composition, “Hymn to Zeus” (track 3 from my 2010 independently released album, “Apollo’s Lyre”) which he described in our telephone conference as “...a really beautiful melody”.

In short, Rufus arranged an excerpt of my original composition for solo lyre, "Hymn to Zeus" in Act II, Scene IV; when Hadrian travels back in time to relive the day he first meeting his lover, Antinous and later, in Act III, scene VIII - when he again time travels, to finally learn the terrible truth of Antinous's death; murdered by Hadrian's general, Turbo and his body flung into the Nile...






Rufus arranged the excerpt of my "Hymn to Zeus" for harp; using a technique wheere the harpist plucks the strings close the soundboard, called 
'Pres de la Table' style, to imitate the more guitar-like timbre of my lyre. 

"Hymn to Zeus"
 
originally featured in my 2010 ancient Greek-themed album, "Apollo's Lyre" 



The piece is in the intensely introspective ancient Greek Dorian Mode (equivalent intervals of E-E on the white notes of the piano and misnamed the 'Phrygian' Mode in the Middle Ages). This was the only musical mode which Plato felt had true moral worth; the most 'manly' of the modes, capable even of inspiring bravery in battle! Here is the philosophical dialogue on the moral values of the Dorian Mode, in the pages of Plato's "Republic":

"We were saying, when we spoke of the subject-matter, that we had no need of lamentations and strains of sorrow?

True.

And which are the harmonies expressive of sorrow? You are musical, and can tell me.

The harmonies which you mean are the mixed or tenor Lydian, and the full-toned or bass Lydian, and such like.

These then, I said, must be banished; even to women who have a character to maintain they are of no use, and much less to men. Certainly.

In the next place, drunkenness and softness and indolence are utterly unbecoming the character of our guardians.

Utterly unbecoming.

And which are the soft or drinking harmonies?

The Ionian, he replied, and the Lydian; they are termed 'relaxed.'

Well, and are these of any military use?

Quite the reverse, he replied; and if so the Dorian and the Phrygian are the only ones which you have left.

I answered: Of the harmonies I know nothing, but I want to have one warlike, to sound the note or accent which a brave man utters in the hour of danger and stern resolve, or when his cause is failing, and he is going to wounds or death or is overtaken by some other evil, and at every such crisis meets the blows of fortune with firm step and a determination to endure; and another to be used by him in times of peace and freedom of action, when there is no pressure of necessity, and he is seeking to persuade God by prayer, or man by instruction and admonition, or on the other hand, when he is expressing his willingness to yield to persuasion or entreaty or admonition, and which represents him when by prudent conduct he has attained his end, not carried away by his success, but acting moderately and wisely under the circumstances, and acquiescing in the event. These two harmonies I ask you to leave; the strain of necessity and the strain of freedom, the strain of the unfortunate and the strain of the fortunate, the strain of courage, and the strain of temperance; these, I say, leave.

And these, he replied, are the Dorian and Phrygian harmonies of which I was just now speaking."





An online article describing the premiere performance of 'Hadrian', which also mentions Rufus's arrangement of my "Hymn to Zeus" can be read here.

It is a truly a privilege to have my work incorporated into the contemporary classical music repertoire!




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