Façon tragique de tuer une femme / Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman
A chamber opera in one act
Diana Soh composer
Richard Dubelski librettist
In Soh's new one-act chamber opera, the disparity of treatment between men and women is articulated through the life and loves of one woman - Ofelia. Taking inspiration from the Greek tragedies, this modern-day representation showcases the full and timeless spectrum of micro-aggressions and violence against women.
Inspired by the book Façon tragique de tuer une femme by Nicole Loraux, composer Diana Soh and librettist Richard Dubelski examine systemic violence against women through the perspective of three female characters - Ofé, Ophélie, Ophelia. Using the greek tragedies as a springboard, this one-act chamber opera will gradually reveal that these three women are one and the same reliving different periods of a life (early 20s, 30s and 50-60s) and relationship concurrently. With an emphasis on the many nonliteral deaths that kill women on the inside daily, the entire opera set itself will be the musical construct that demonstrates these timeless domestic issues. Diana Soh’s highly-detailed score will precisely define the physical movements for the performers, creating an unusual, “noisy” rhythmic backdrop to the singing, turning mundane tasks like stirring one’s tea, chopping vegetables and turning a page into music.
Here below is a film realised by Joanna Coates on their work in progress
Composition: Diana Soh
Libretto : Richard Dubelski
inspired by the book Façon tragique de tuer une femme by Nicole Loraux
Stage Director : TBA
3 female singers (2x soprano, 1x mezzo-soprano)
2 actors / percussionists (with spoken parts)
vocal ensemble (4 - 6 parts)
and amplified mis-en-scene (*domestic objects like cups, pots and pans, blenders, knifes are used not only as props but actual music-makers)
The opera will be translatable to whatever language in whatever country it plays in – primarily there will be an English and a French version. Ideally to be played without any subtitles because the body language and physical movements of the singers/actors often tell a different story from what is sung and functions as a subtext. Hence the text needs to be understood by the public to create a counter point between words and body.
The project will explore systemic violence and domestic issues with a focus on power structures in relationships. We will concentrate on the exploration the notion of dominance in a heterosexual relationship and the idea of female empowerment. We want to emphasise the little non-literal types of deaths that kills one on the inside, often because of external commentaries or judgements etc.
Objects as instruments
The objects on stage and the entire opera set itself are an intrinsic part of the musical construction. The sounds that result from the movement of the actors and singers on stage are part of the musical set up and they are part of the story telling device. The object-sounds are literally the orchestral accompaniment to the singers, the movements and thus sounds never stops in all 3 apartments even when the spotlight in on one particular apartment.
A TV screen is a central prop in Apartment B and the character Orphelia watches a soap opera titled Tragic ways of Killing a Woman. It comes on at key moments in the opera often drawing up parallels to the thematic in the main narrative. This soap opera has to be pre-recorded.
Storyline & Structure
The opera will be structured in a way where the public only gets partial information and throughout the course of the opera, more and more will be revealed. Their perspectives and opinions of the characters will change and at some point, the public will realise that we are actually seeing the same female character (Ofé, Ophélie, Ophelia) at different points of her life. And what we thought were neighbourly interactions and commentary were but false dialogue across space and time.
—————————————————— Temporal Arch ————————————————————
The escape of Orphélie of Yannis
events in reverse
The start of her relationship with Yannis
↓ 20 years later
The everyday life of Orphelia
The assassination of her husband
Apartment Cearly 20s
The start of her (Ofé) relationship with Yannis
Tracing the happenings in 3 different apartments concurrently:
-Apartment A: We begin with Orphélie (apt. A) where we see her packing her suitcase in panic and trying to run away, and we trace the breakdown of their relationship in reverse, and her degrading mental shape - with her, we see a violent rape scene ; a panic cooking scene in anticipation of a beating ; a silent dinner scene ; until we reach the start of their life together in this apartment.
-Apartment C: With Ofé we see a woman before her tarnish, alive and spontaneous, with multiple love interests, and in a budding relationship with a young man named Yannis.
-Apartment B: Finally with Orphelia, we see her with a different partner, older set in their routine and ways, where the disputes are undercurrents beneath surface niceties. A toxic relationship that results in the slow murder of the husband.
Link to Libretto (English version)
A sound-research residency at an electronic music studio where we can work together with the sound engineers and also the stage-designer and stage director to fully integrate the set design into the music making.
We would need a sound team consisting of a RIM (réalisateurs de l'informatique musicale) during the production as well, as there will be use of amplification and thus spatialisation.
All cables and microphones must be completely hidden and embedded to maintain an illusion of the most natural acoustic.
Richard Dubelski the librettist will take on the role of the Old Man in this opera.
Snape Maltings, Bouffe du Nord (Paris), Théâtre de l’Athénée, Festival Présence de la Radio
European Network of Opera Academies (La Monnaie, Festival Aix, Snape Maltings, Luxembourg) and Operadagen Rotterdam, IRCAM
About the Creators
Richard Dubelski was born in the wings of l’Alcazar de Marseille, a variety theatre, to a composer/conductor father and an actress/singer mother. Richard followed in their footsteps with a musical education (First Prize in Percussion at the Music Academy of Rueil-Malmaison) and one in theatre (Atelier de Betty Rafaelli). This allowed him to embrace his multi-disciplinary activities that ranges from director, actor, musician and writer.
In 1987 he met Georges Aperghis and become one of his favourite performer. He performed as actor-musician with different stage directors such as Thierry Bédard, Lucas Thiéry, Edith Scob, Georges Appaix, André Wilms, Jean-Pierre Larroche, Thierry Roisin, Marcel Bozonnet, Serge Hureau, Joëlle Cattino, Antoine Gindt, Sedef Ecer...
In 1993, Richard directed his first musical show with his theatre company Corps à Sons Théâtre, and has since created at least twenty performances as both writer and director.
Richard is also a qualified State Theatre Teacher, and has given numerous master classes for music theatre in different National Schools for actors and National Theatres, and Musics Academies.
He works regularly with the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne as a performer and stage director and is part of the trio Ballets Confidentiels, associated at the Theatre Garonne - Scène Européenne, with Johanne Saunier (dancer and choreographer) and Eleonore Lemaire (soprano).
Singaporean composer Diana Soh received her first musical training in piano, voice and composition locally. An alumnus of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, the University at Buffalo and IRCAM, her musical interest is currently directed at exploring performance interactivity as well as obtaining specific sound colours from the intimate collaboration with performers. Known for integrating the use of technology and interested in theatre, she often surprises her audiences and finds ways to address social issues of our times in her work and “composes the impossible” (concert classic)
Described as “a composer to follow” (Diapason) and her music “very energetic and (with) galvanising flow” (ResMusica) Diana is the recipient of the National Arts Council Singapore’s Young Artist Award, the Impuls composition competition (Austria), and has received commissions from institutions and festivals like the Barlow Endowment for Music, Festival d’Aix en Provence, IRCAM, Ministry of Culture France, Royaumont Foundation, and the Ernst von Siemens Foundation amongst others.
Diana has written for a wide range of instrumentation from chamber music, to orchestra, dance, film, choral and vocal music, and multi-media site-specific works. Her works have been broadcasted on Deutschlandfunk (Cologne Radio), ORF (Austrian TV/Radio) Danish Broadcasting Corporation, BBC Radio 3 and France Musique and performed by ensembles including Ensemble Court-Circuit, and Klangforum Wien, the Arditti Quartet etc.
She currently resides in Paris and is working on a new pieces for Ensemble Schallfeld, Ensemble 2E2M, La Maitrise de la Radio and of course concocting new ways to approach her favourite genre, opera.