A new opera based on real events surrounding the doomed love affair between Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka and Alma Mahler, widow of composer Gustav. When the early passion of their affair faded away, Alma taunted Oskar to go and fight in World War One, paving the way for her next lover. Grievously wounded and suffering from shell-shock, Oskar’s only path back to sanity was to commission a life size doll of Alma with whom he lived as a partner – eating meals, going for a ride in the carriage – attending the opera. The scandal in Vienna was huge, but when Oskar regained his equilibrium, he realised he no longer needed the doll, he arranged a party with all his students, and they drunkenly “beheaded” the doll.
Vividly captured in this virtuosic score by Raymond Deane, this full-length opera calls for five principal singers, a range of smaller roles, full chorus and symphony orchestra. It is a demanding tour-de-force for all involved.
“Deane’s music was forceful and dynamic in the hands of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. I suspect nothing on Ireland’s opera stage, north or south, this year will equal this remarkable achievement.”
Sunday Business Post
The concept for this opera was first proposed by artist Pauline Bewick, and one scene of the opera was commissioned by RTÉ lyric fm, and recorded for broadcast in 2009. This 2013 premiere performance was given in concert in the National Concert Hall with visuals by Pauline Bewick projected on a large screen above the orchestra.
“The torrid affair between Mahler’s widow Alma and artist Oskar Kokoschka achieves striking realism in Deane’s powerfully dramatic score. Majella Cullagh and Leigh Melrose are the infatuated protagonists as the confident hand of Fergus Sheil guides them through the composer’s mesmeric maze. A triumph for all concerned.”
The Alma Fetish was made possible with the support of The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon. The production was also supported through partnerships with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the National Concert Hall. RTÉ lyric fm was media partner. The Contemporary Music Centre also supported the performance.
He was brought up on Achill Island, and has lived in Dublin, Basel, Cologne, Berlin, Oldenburg, Paris and Fürth.
He studied music in University College Dublin, Ireland, from 1970 until graduation in 1974. He was awarded a doctorate in composition by the National University of Ireland in 2005. He is based in Dublin, Paris, and Fürth (Bavaria).
Deane has been a member of Aosdána, the Irish state-supported academy of artists, since 1986.
He was a founding member of the Association of Young Irish Composers, which later became the Association of Irish Composers, the Irish branch of the International Society for Contemporary Music.
Recordings of his works have been made on the Naxos, Black Box and RTÉ labels.