Opus 904

Circe (2010-11)

for Soprano and Organ

Text by Louise Glück

  • Circe’s Power
  • Circe’s Torment
  • Circe’s Grief

Jolle Greenleaf, soprano; Christian Lane, organ

Duration: 7.5 min.

Dedication: for Jolle Greenleaf and Christian Lane

Commission: Commissioned by Christian Lane

Publisher: Zimbel Press/Subito Music Corp.

Performance materials available from the publisher.

Circe (2010–11), a cantata for soprano and organ, was written for Jolle Greenleaf and Christian Lane.

The work is a contemporary approach to the genre of the baroque secular solo cantata. As with many baroque works, the subject matter is taken from the classical world; in this case it is the story of Circe, the sorceress (or minor goddess: daughter of the sun god Helios and the sea nymph Perse) from Homer’s Odyssey. However,in the spirit of contemporary adaptation, the texts are three poems by American poet Louise Glück (1943–2023) from her book Meadowlands (1996), a large section of which contains poems related to characters from the Odyssey.

In the Odyssey, Odysseus and his men, returning home from the Trojan War, are lured to Circe’s island (Aeaea). Through her magic, Circe transforms Odysseus’s men into animals, but with help from the god Hermes, Odysseus is able to resist her magic himself, and Circe is forced to restore his men to human form. For the next year, Odysseus and his men remain on the island in leisure, and Odysseus becomes Circe’s lover. However, after the year has passed, Odysseus decides to continue the journey home to Ithaca (to return to his wife Penelope, who is patiently waiting for him). Circe reluctantly lets him go. Despite her divine heritage, the Circe of Glück’s poems is consumed with the quite human emotions of longing, bitterness, and jealousy.

The musical language of the work is contemporary, though there is a great deal of allusion to baroque style and specific musical forms (including sarabande, loure, ground, plaint, and musette).