Roger Waters previews French Revolution opera

Staff and agencies
01 August, 2005

By Chris MichaudTue Jul 26, 3:31 AM ET

NEW YORK - It was a far cry from "we don‘t needno education" on Monday when Pink Floyd‘s Roger Waterspresented excerpts for the first time from "Ca Ira," his newthree-act opera about the French Revolution.

Rogers told an enthusiastic audience, which was to allappearances made up more of Pink Floyd fans than opera buffs,that the ambitious project first came to him back in 1989, whenFrench songwriter Etienne Roda-Gil brought him a libretto forthe French revolution-inspired piece.

Saying that the concerns of both the French and AmericanRevolutions and their foundations in the then-new concept ofhuman rights had always resonated with him, Rogers recalledthat he quickly agreed to write a score after first rejectingRoda-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 eachhave within us the potential for republic." The work will bereleased by Sony BMG Masterworks/Columbia Records on Sept. 27.

Despite being set in the Revolution‘s early days of 1789,"Ca Ira ‘There is Hope"‘ exudes a timeliness that Rogers saidshould appeal to modern audiences, including people who haveneither seen nor heard an opera.

In the face of the modern world‘s extremes of wealth andpoverty, from America to Africa, Waters noted that "not a greatdeal has changed. But we stand at a crossroads. And I refuse tofall into this cloud of cynicism and accept that there‘snothing we can do about it," he said to applause.

The rocker also conceded that "I‘m sort of reiterating ‘TheWall‘ (the seminal Pink Floyd work)" and its themes of"powerlessness in the face of loss." And that empathy for humanloss led him to draw a more sympathetic portrait of both LouisXVI and Marie Antoinette than has been the tradition.

Waters said he was moved by Marie Antoinette‘s lament ofthe loss of her children in a letter to her sister on the eveof 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 ariathat was one of some half-dozen selections presented during theevening.

Nonetheless, he admitted to taking some liberties withhistory while adapting a literal translation of the originalFrench libretto. "Reality," he mused wryly, "was mildlyinadequate."

Asked why he thought opera was off-putting and intimidatingto many, Rogers said it could be because most people think it‘snot meant for them, but only for the wealthy or the elite. Buthe noted the irony in that, given that opera was originally theart form of the masses. The same, he added, could be said ofShakespeare.

"The point of music is for human beings to connect with oneanother," Waters said.

He also held that he has "always loved the sound of bigorchestras," and indeed both "The Wall" and "Dark Side of theMoon" had their share of ambitious, conceptual and visionarysegments, especially for works within the rock arena.

Themes of humanity stretch across art forms, he said inconclusion.

"The idea of republic is to discover within ourselves thefreedom to choose a more humane way of empathizing with eachother" he said. "It‘s a point I make again and again, but Ifeel it‘s true for everybody. The promise of republic lieswithin."



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