Waters libretto all about egalite
Chris Michaud
July 29, 2005

It was a far cry from "we don't need no education" when Roger Waters recently presented excerpts from Ca Ira, his three-act opera about the French Revolution.

Waters, a former member of the rock band Pink Floyd, told an enthusiastic audience, which seemed to be made up more of 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.

Waters, saying that the concerns of the French and American revolutions and their foundations in human rights had always resonated with him, recalls that he agreed to write a score after rejecting Roda-Gil's "rather odd" idea of recycling old Pink Floyd songs.

Despite being set in the 1789 revolution's early days, Ca Ira (There is Hope), which will be released at the end of September, exudes a timeliness that Waters says should appeal to modern audiences, and not just opera buffs.

Given the modern world's extremes of wealth and poverty, "not a great deal has changed", says Waters. "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."

The rocker is also "sort of reiterating [the seminal Pink Floyd work] The Wall" and its themes of "powerlessness in the face of loss". That empathy for human loss has led to surprisingly sympathetic portrayals of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Waters also admits taking some liberties with history while adapting a literal translation of the original French libretto. "Reality," he muses wryly, "was mildly inadequate."


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