The Libretto from Peter Maxwell Davies' 'The Lighthouse', Chamber opera in a prologue and one act. Duration c.1h 25mins.
A ghost story telling of the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in the Hebrides.
This is a mystery story in the form of a chamber opera. The prologue is set as a court of enquiry into the unexplained disappearance of the three keepers from a lighthouse. Questions are posed by a solo horn, which may sound from among the audience, and three officers give answer. Gradually, they move from straight testimony into fantastical imaginings of evil during a 'flashback' to the lighthouse; but then we snap back to the courtroom.
In the main act the three singers become the vanished keepers. They have been together for months, long enough to be fully aware of each other's weaknesses; petty bickerings suggest a relationship which is stable, but liable to become highly unstable at any moment. They sing songs to reduce the tension, Blazes beginning with a rough ballad of street violence, accompanied by violin and banjo. Sandy's song, with cello and out-of-tune upright piano, is a thinly disguised description of sexual bliss, and Arthur's with brass and clarinet, is a tub-thumping hymn. But the songs serve only to resurrect in their minds ghosts from the past, and as the fog descends each of the keepers becomes convinced that he is being claimed by the Beast. They prepare to meet its dazzling eyes, which become the lights of the relief vessel, and the three men reappear as officers, met at the lighthouse only by an infestation of rats. They leave, and at the end the last hours of Blazes, Sandy and Arthur begin to play over again.