With the success of recent films based on the works of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as that of the musical version of The Lord of the Rings, you might be thinking, isn’t it about time for an opera based on Perelandra, the second book of Lewis’s Space Trilogy?
Well, the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society and the Donald Swann Estate agree. As they explain here, “The opera [Perelandra] was written in collaboration with C.S. Lewis between 1960 and 1964. The sale of the film rights shortly after Lewis’ death, however, placed a long-term embargo on its performance. The opera is now receiving a long-awaited second premiere. It is to be performed in its original, three-act version as a ‘theatrical oratorio’.” The music is by Donald Swann, also known (among other things) for the musical adaptations of Tolkien’s songs and poems published in The Road Goes Ever On. The libretto — which C.S. Lewis called “just stunningly good. It brought tears to my eyes in places” — is by David Marsh.
The performance will take place in Oxford, England on 25, 26, and 28 June 2009. And what’s an opera without an international colloquium on the novel? This will take place at Oxford University over 26–7 June, with a keynote address by Walter Hooper. You’ll find the Call For Papers, which “may treat [any or] all aspects of Perelandra (literary, theological, historical and other)”, here. The deadline for abstract proposals is 20 April 2009.
As if that weren’t enough, they’re also running a competition for original artwork inspired by the novel. Submissions will be judged by the eminent fantasy artist, Alan Lee, also known for his illustrations of Tolkien’s world. Winners may be displayed at the opera and colloquium, and could even earn a spot in the CD, production book, and other accompanying material. Plus, there’s a first prize of £100 and two second prizes of £50. Submissions must be received by 15 February 2009. For more details, follow this link.
This could well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — especially to see the opera, which has only been performed once before, more than forty years ago. For those who can’t make it, a recording is in the works, but if you have the means (alas, I don’t!), then this is a combination of events that shouldn’t be missed.
(Hat-tip to Gary for bringing this to my attention! :)