Harrison Birtwistle Interview - The Mask of Orpheus


'The Mask of Orpheus' by Sir Harrison Birtwistle

"I chose the Orpheus myth because it has so many dimensions."

"There is something absolutely fundamental about Orpheus - the subject matter is music, it's about the birth of music"

"It has preoccupied people right through the centuries from Cocteau, Gluck, Stravinsky,Monteverdi and I don't think it'll be the end by any means."

"There's two ways of telling a story - one is to tell it because you don't know it and the other is to tell it like a childs story - you retell it. The thing about Orpheus is that its about retelling - it embraces not only one aspect of the story of Orpheus but the entire myth. If you're dealing with a myth, I believe that you have to deal with the whole thing."

"The opera tells the story with all the built-in contradictions, and from many different angles. It does it in a way in which each character has three manifestations. So, for example, Orpheus appears as a singer, as a mime or dumb show act and as a puppet - all three can be present on the stage at the same time."
"My operas and my theatre works are very formal pieces. They usually come from musical ideas in the first place rather than ideas about subject matter. There is something very foreign about the theatre that I'm on about - musicians seem to understand it!"