She - An Opera of Imagination


Abstract / About the project


Apart from the beauty of the story itself, we decided to create a transposition of the book “She” by H. Rider Haggard because of its ability to examine some of the most common subjects of our time. Despite being a book written more than a century ago, the story expresses numeous racial and evolutionary conceptions (especially notions of degeneraion and racial decline) as well as themes such as female authority, feminine behaviour and sexuality that are still extremely discussed today (it takes just a look at the newspapers to understand how present these themes are in our lives).

The will to reach the heart of these topics is even mirrored in the structure of the book, which presents a “chinese nest of boxes“ model, a literature structure where the story is told in the form of a narrative inside a narrative (and so on), giving views from different perspectives. Examples include Plato's dialogue “Symposion”, Mary Shelley's 1818 novel “Frankenstein”, Jostein Gaarder's “The Solitaire Mystery”, and Joseph Conrad's “Heart of Darkness” that, together with “She”, is one of the most popular books which gave voice to the genre of the “lost world” and “lost civilization”.

Instead of losing this important aspect of the book as many film transpositions did, we decided to keep it both in the structure of the libretto and of the musical dramaturgy. By means of a travel in time and in space, and by means of the use of the same few soloists playing different characters in different eras, we can somehow find a way of telling the same story repeating through the different periods of time, as a proof of the fact that even if the world goes on and on, some of the norms that rule it are always the same. Therefore all the characters become like “functions” of a character, which means different persons but actually the same ones: Amenarta in the Egyptian time becomes Ustane in the Amahagger time; Kallikrates in the Egyptian time becomes Leo Vincey in the English time, etc. The only character who will not change at all is the millenial Ayesha, also known as 'She-who-must-be-obeyed', as she is described in the story. She represents the center of the Earth, the arrival point of the voyage of all the men who travel to reach her and to reach the truth about the world and themeselves. On top of that, the more these characters will get close to Ayesha, the more they will change their way of being and their morality ideals, forcing us (meaning the audience) to think about our ethics as well.

The work was commissioned by Fabbrica Young Artists Development Program of Opera di Roma and premiered at Teatro Nazionale, Rome, in October 2017. The libretto was written by Stefano Simone Pintor.

Video of She - An Opera of Imagination