Over the years you come across true life characters you really feel you would like to write about but the period between gestation and production can be an awfully long time. It must be at least thirty years since I first came across La Belle Otero and thought what a fabulous character around which to weave a musical but it wasn’t until coming out here to Crete that I actually got around to writing it and this was because fate gave me a nudge in that the composer Chris Littlewood moved into a village not four kilometres away, liked the lyrics I showed him (from previous efforts), and agreed to work with me. Another character I thought about was Victoria Caflin Woodhull, known as Mrs Satan because of her belief in “free love” among other things and the first woman to put herself forward as a presidential candidate. She later married an English banker, became respectable and retired to the shires where the couple entertained Edward Vll, then price of Wales. A musical in fact was written about her, called “Onward Victoria” that went on in New York some time in the early eighties and came off in one night and I am not surprised. I have the record, recorded of course before that fatal opening/closing night, and the songs are pretty appalling. When there was a possibility of the democrats choosing Hilary Clinton as their presidential candidate I thought it might be a good idea to revive the idea, reread a biography and played some of the record and decided against it. An interesting life it might have been but Mrs Woodhull changed her views so often and to such an extent it’s no wonder she ended up a rather dull respectable county lady with no views at all.
Yet a third character who intrigued me was the Chevalier D’eon, a secret agent under Louis XV, an ambassador and a master swordsman. Even when wearing skirts he was evidently unbeatable. Yes, indeed, the Chevalier sometimes appeared as a man, sometimes as a woman and there were huge bets as to what sex he/she actually was. For years I have on and off toyed with the idea of writing a musical about this character but I am afraid the idea has never taken off and I doubt very much at my time of life I would want to write another musical with all the work that entails and the chances of it being produced being about a hundred thousand to one if not more. Anyway, these reminiscences were started off by my reading in The Sunday Times Culture Section, under dance, that three artistes have also been taken by the Chevalier and collaborated in creating a sort of dance spectacle titled Eonnagata, the action of dance and swordplay being broken off at times for readings of D’eon’s letters. Evidently the three all play an aspect of the Chevalier and naturally true Kabuki onnogata representation is included. The piece premiered at Sadler’s Wells and evidently extended to extra performances is not very well reviewed in the Sunday Times.
“It has been said – and such is Lepage’s practice – that Eonnogata will evolve in the process of performances, but this unveiling didn’t enthuse me to hold my breath.”
I have also thought of writing a chamber opera on the life of Modigliani but somehow I doubt that will ever see the light of day. I’m surprised though that someone, French or Italian, hasn’t made a film about him. Or have they?
We are eagerly awaiting the proof of "Just In Case" from the printers