THE OWL AND THE PUSSY-CAT
A Grand Opera in 9 numbers for voice and piano; originally for soprano and piano - also versions for mezzo-soprano, and baritone
Edward Lear’s poem The Owl and the Pussy Cat has occupied me many times over my composing life; first as a suite for piano, the very first piece I managed to write down, at the age of nine. At eleven, I turned a tune from that suite into a setting of the poem for voice and piano - this I was to arrange many years later (2003) for female chorus and piano, when I was music director at St. Paul’s Girls’ School. I set the poem for soprano and piano as a gift for a colleague who had a daughter in 1989, but withdrew it a few years later. In 1998 I attacked it again, as a present for my elder daughter, Hattie, to whom this work is dedicated. I decided against a simple strophic setting of the three-verse poem, turning it instead into a miniature opera, with continuous, but discernible set numbers. The overture consists of three crashes, which traditionally heralded the rise of the curtain in nineteenth century theatre. I later made not one, but two different ensemble versions of the score, both of which have been widely performed. This mini-opera has been sung by all voice types – so far – except a tenor! There is also a version for chamber orchestra.
First performance of Ensemble Version1 9 February 2001 by Mary Wiegold (soprano) and the Composer's Ensemble c. Dominic Muldowney. The Warehouse, London SE1
Ensemble Version 2 12 March 2000 by Adey Grummet (soprano) Ensemble of Music Theatre Wales c. Michael Rafferty, Norwegian Church Arts Centre, Cardiff
Ensemble version 1 - Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, viola, 'cello, double-bass
Ensemble version 2 - Flute+picc, Clarinet+bass cl., piano, violin, 'cello
Version for chamber orchestra (2+2+2+2/2100/timp/celesta/1 perc [cym,glock, xylo, tubular bells]/strings)