Beautiful Caged Thing


soprano and chamber orchestra
Chamber/Small Orchestra, Solo Voice(s) with Orchestra, Soprano
Tom Coult after Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'
2(II=bfl+picc).2.2(II=bcl).1.cbsn - 2210 - perc(1): 5 pitched gongs/mar/vib/pair of bongos/BD/tam-t/vibraslap - harp - strings (min.

Commissioned by Aldeburgh Music for the 2015 Aldeburgh Festival

First Performance
13.6.2015, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, Snape, Suffolk: Claire Booth/Mahler Chamber Orchestra/George Benjamin

Score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

I.          I have known everything
II.         Monstrous marionettes
III.        I am tired of myself tonight

When first thinking about this song cycle, I knew I wanted to set the words of Oscar Wilde –to tap into the lightness, playfulness and sheer fleet-footed élan that burst from the seams of his finest work. I couldn’t find the right text, however. A lot of his poetry was too restrictive and tight in rhyme and rhythm, and in its tone seemed – for want of a better word – far more ‘Earnest’ than the plays. I therefore set about creating my own Wilde poetry by extracting sentences and phrases from his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and arranging them to form three poems.
The result, however, was not quite the ‘delicate bubble of fancy’ that I had initially intended, though it seemed right to make a piece out of. Although it has, on a sentence level, all the linguistic elegance of Wilde, in tone it is more surrealist, and in parts much darker. The first poem’s narrator reels off a series of facts and pieces of wisdom almost at random – the second poem depicts a scene between a capricious lady and a sleazy, manipulative man – and the final poem sees the now world-weary narrator wishing she could ‘be somebody else’.

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