Sandwiched in the middle of two extremely poetic and eloquent acts is the visceral and violent ‘Death of the Seven Dwarves’. I remember reading the libretto and being immediately drawn to the second act as I really felt that I could relate to Snow in this act (which perhaps is rather revealing about myself!). This is Snow at her most desperate and vulnerable and at the same time she is full of hope and curiosity. The long monologue in the second act for me was very exciting because as a viewer/listener we are not only confined to the dwarves house but confined to the inner thoughts of Snow’s head. The second movement I feel is when she truly discovers the power of her own sensuality (as revealed to her through the village women) and this is both potent and soul-destroying.
It was an incredibly strange experience for me writing this movement. I find Opera generally quite a strange medium! First of all I tend to write very fast and condensed so I did most of it in the month of August and then touched up the orchestration in September. I actually wrote most of the instrumental parts before writing any of the vocal melodies, as it took a long time before I felt that I could do justice to the highly symbolic language through music. Actually I’ve used quite a lot of spoken voice or sprechstimme in the piece as I sometimes felt that adding a melody to the incredibly dark libretto killed the violence of the words and somehow trivialised the meaning. I became very involved in Snow’s story and her desperation and alienation- there were some strange parallels between Snow wandering around the dwarves cottage alone and my own experience of sitting in my room, isolated, and writing all day. I got so carried away that more than once I heard what I thought were the village women creeping around my own house and I would run down the stairs yielding my umbrella or sing very loudly to ‘scare them off’! This is actually manifested in the piece through the idea of vocal ‘echoes’- whispering or offstage voices that the audience hears during the music and which one is not quite sure whether they exist or not!
My degree is in ethnomusicology and I have drawn much inspiration from Georgian polyphonic singing- both harmonically, the way in which the parts move, and the intense timbre and unique vocal style. I think very much in terms of timbre- I actually wrote the orchestral score first and later created a piano reduction. Rhythm is also a hugely important element in the piece- a violent 7/8 rhythm underpins most of the music, which is generally very percussive. This driving intensity that I have tried to create throughout expresses the relentlessness of Snow’s situation- the feeling of being a hunted animal.