Waters Previews French Revolution Opera
It was a far cry from "we don't need no education" yesterday (July 25) in New York when Pink Floyd's Roger Waters presented excerpts for the first time from "Ca Ira," his new three-act opera about theIt was a far cry from "we don't need no education" yesterday (July 25) in New York when Pink Floyd's Roger Waters presented excerpts for the first time from "Ca Ira," his new three-act opera about the French Revolution.
Waters told an enthusiastic audience, which was to all appearances made up more of Pink Floyd fans than opera buffs, that the ambitious project first came to him back in 1989, when French songwriter Etienne Roda-Gil brought him a libretto for the French revolution-inspired piece.
Saying that the concerns of both the French and American Revolutions and their foundations in the then-new concept of human rights had always resonated with him, Waters recalled that he quickly agreed to write a score after first rejecting Roda-Gil's "rather odd" idea of recycling old Pink Floyd songs.
"It's really about revolution in the broadest sense," Waters said. "It's about change, and personal change; we each have within us the potential for republic." As previously reported, the work will be released Sept. 27 by Sony BMG Masterworks/Columbia.
Despite being set in the Revolution's early days of 1789, Waters noted that "not a great deal has changed. But we stand at a crossroads. And I refuse to fall into this cloud of cynicism and accept that there's nothing we can do about it," he said to applause.
The rocker also conceded, "I'm sort of reiterating [Pink Floyd's] 'The Wall'" and its themes of "powerlessness in the face of loss." And that empathy for human loss led him to draw a more sympathetic portrait of both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette than has been the tradition.
Waters said he was moved by Marie Antoinette's lament of the loss of her children in a letter to her sister on the eve of her execution, which, she wrote, was her sole regret. Humanity, whether of the masses or the royals, is omnipresent, and accordingly he wrote "The Last Night on Earth," an aria that was one of some half-dozen selections presented during the evening.
Asked why he thought opera was off-putting and intimidating to many, Rogers said it could be because most people think it's not meant for them, but only for the wealthy or the elite. But he noted the irony in that, given that opera was originally the art form of the masses. The same, he added, could be said of Shakespeare. "The point of music is for human beings to connect with one another," Waters said.
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