The trio of one-act operas which make up Snow were inspired by unfamiliar versions of three episodes from the Snow White fairytale. The Three Ravens refracts well-known elements of Snow White’s birth narrative through the prism of a German version, which makes more explicit the Oedipal desires of father and daughter. The Death of the Seven Dwarves is based on an obscure folk legend from Switzerland, in which a local community brutally murders the eponymous dwarves and destroys their house after hearing sordid rumours about a young girl cohabiting with seven men. And The Crystal Casket originates from an Italian popular tale of the same name, which amplifies the strange and violent domestic situation of a prince who returns from a hunt dragging a dead girl instead of a boar.
Jennifer Williams’ libretto evolves a series of recurring images and motifs across the three operas, which we sought to draw closer together in our staging. The absence of the narrative episode in which Snow White is bewitched into suspended animation by her jealous stepmother leaves a tantalizing question about how our heroine comes to be interred in a casket. The final line of the Swiss tale Tod der sieben Zwerge is ambiguous about Snow White’s fate in the inferno of the dwarves cottage (“No-one knows what became of the girl”) and Lucie Treacher’s operatic version suggests no convenient escape. Snow White’s implied death became the conceptual starting point for approaching the three operas as a through-drama: a young woman at the end of her life searches her past for clues to her tragedy.