Listening to the brief excerpts from Skellig the other day brought back a deluge of memories about its wonderful run at the Sage Gateshead in 2008. Few people have heard the opera because it has not yet been recorded. We thought you might enjoy this glimpse from the first act. Matthew Long sings the role of Michael, and Merrin Layzan is Mina. The orchestra is the Northern Sinfonia under the baton of Garry Walker.
He was filthy and pale and dried out and I thought he was dead. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d soon begin to see the truth about him, that there’d never been another creature like him in the world.
Michael and his family have moved house. It was going to be wonderful. They were due to arrive in time for the spring. But everything’s dark, the place is a wreck, the garden’s a wilderness. And now Michael’s sister is dangerously ill, his parents are frantic and Doctor Death has come to call. Michael feels helpless.
Then he steps into the crumbling garage…
What is this thing beneath the spiders’ webs and dead flies?
A human being, or a strange kind of beast never seen before?
The only person Michael can confide in is Mina. Together, they bring the creature into the light, and Michael’s world changes forever…
Music by Tod Machover
Libretto by David Almond
SCENE 6. THE SWEETEST NOISE
Chorus is all over the stage – some elevated if possible – so their voices can be heard from many different places during this scene.
MINA You’re unhappy.
MICHAEL It looks like the baby is going to bloody die.
MINA Would you like me to show you something?
Hush. Be very still, and very quiet.
MICHAEL Listen to what?
MINA Just listen. Hush.
Close your eyes. Listen deeper.
Listen for the tiniest sweetest noise.
What do you hear?
MUM (from far far away) Michael! Michael!
MICHAEL I hear the world.
The choir sings the world.
I hear the city’s endless roar.
The choir sings the city.
The bitter breeze that rattles through the trees.
The choir sings the wind.
The dogs and cats, the frantic noise of birds.
The choir sings the animals and birds.
MINA Listen closer.
MICHAEL This drumming blood, this sighing breath, these hectic thoughts.
This heart! This thumping heart!
The choir sings the heart.
MINA Listen deeper, listen closer,
listen for the sweetest noise.
It comes from above you,
from inside the tree.
MICHAEL From inside the tree?
MINA Be still and listen, Michael!
MICHAEL Yes! The tiniest sweetest noise.
The choir sings the tiniest sweetest noise.
MINA The chicks inside the nest.
The sweetest noise, the heart of everything.
The noise of cheeping chicks.
MICHAEL I hear it!
MINA Tell nobody.
MINA Hope to die.
MINA Cross your heart and hope to die.
MICHAEL Cross my heart and hope to die.
Mina runs away. Michael steps back through the gate and goes back inside the house. As Mina runs away, the chorus also disappears from the stage.