The Legend of the Fairy Melusine

MelusineBased on a 14 c. French folktale, the story of Melusine is filled with romance, mystery, and shape shifting. Half-fairy by birth, Melusine appears most of the time as a human. But, because of a curse, once a week she transforms into half-woman, half-serpent—a secret she keeps from her mortal husband, Raimondin. When eventually Raimondin catches her in her supernatural state, Melusine completes her transformation to full dragon and flies out of Raimondin’s life. In Jobe’s retelling, Raimondin and Melusine are reunited through Raimondin’s epiphany: that love transcends our physical form.

Building on the musical vocabularies that he has created for his other works, Jobe will create an original tone color palette uniquely suited to the story of Melusine. The score will employ violin, cello, pipe organ, and orchestral harp as well as less traditional instruments. Melusine, when she is half-serpent, will sing “metal and glass arias,” that is, songs where the primary accompaniment to the voice is metal percussion -- tubular bells and gongs -- in combination with glass bells. These exotic percussion instruments are particularly suited to the telling of such a supernatural story and will serve as the signature sound of the opera. Jobe has recently designed and created a set of pitched glass bells that allow for a fully chromatic, three-octave range. This will bring additional melodic and harmonic components to an already colorful palette of exotic percussion sounds.

Boar TapestryAt the climax of the opera, when Melusine transforms into a dragon, the score features a one-of-a-kind instrument designed by Jobe: the Bosch Hurdy Gurdy, so named because it is based on an image from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Ten feet long, and with a full range of sounds in the bass and contrabass range, the instrument has been integral to Jobe’s work since its completion in 2006.

To create the world of Melusine onstage, Jobe is working in collaboration with director/dramaturge Vanessa Gilbert and shadow puppeteer Dan Butterworth, developing an artistic vocabulary that merges music, puppets, and media. Through a series of periodic work-in-progress showings, the artistic team will prepare for a possible premiere in 2012.

Audio and video highlights from The Legend of the Fairy Melusine are available at the Melusine website