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Photo: Jürgen Banse
Theater Magdeburg

MacMillan, James

Parthenogenesis (2000)

Duration: 50 minutes
Scena for soprano, baritone, actress and chamber ensemble

Libretto by Michael Symmons Roberts; German version by Jan Michael Horstmann (E,G)

1.1.1(=bcl).dbn- gongs/2wdbl/5tom-t/2bongos/SD/BD/susp.cym/sizzle cym/2tam-t(sm,lg)-harp-pft-strings( or string orch)-2tapes.
Abbreviations (PDF).

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Lisa Milne/Christopher Purves/John Fulljames, dir
Conductor: James MacMillan
Company: Britten Sinfonia



Coded sounds transform into a heartbeat. The voice of Anna, a clone-child to be, is heard speaking as if an adult, bitter that she is only her mother’s twin, cursed to have no identity of her own. Her mother, Kristel, is visited by Bruno, appearing to her as an angel but one who seems earthbound, perhaps fallen. She asks if he is her Gabriel, her guardian or her Azazel? Anna mocks them both, suspicious that Bruno is in love with Kristel's mortality, declaring that this is no annunciation. Bruno questions the absence of kindness, but Kristel explains that humanity has been torn apart by war. Anna describes how her life-code is determined by her sister-mother-stranger – Adenine, Cytosine, Thymine, Guanine – that is what Bruno is foretelling through his worldliness. Bruno yearns for mortal experience and challenges Kristel to cleanse the world through accepting him. Kristel offers to heal humanity's scars through kissing Bruno's wounds. Anna describes parthenogenesis: an unfertilized egg triggered into growth from a shock, a bolt of lightning or a bomb. She predicts that if the female clone-child survives and the doppel-gangers meet, only one has the right to survive. Kristel kisses Bruno and he announces that she will bear a fatherless daughter to be named Anna. Repelled by their mutual rapture, Anna rejects the imagery of the Damascus rose in favour of the splintered wood of the cross, a cutting of its mother, of a cutting, of a cutting… Her heart begins to beat.

Press Quotes
"...rhapsodically lyrical music, soaring phrases floridly decorated at their end, together with flawlessly atmospheric orchestration and lacerating rhythmic drive..."
Glasgow Herald

Poetic, Romantic

Contemporary, Ethics

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