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The Bearded Lady was suggested by a scene in the Auden/Kallman libretto for the Rake’s Progress: the hero, Tom Rakewell, having been deceived into marrying Baba the Turk (the bearded lady of St Giles’ Fair), is trying to have her breakfast in their new home; his attempts at conversation are persistently frustrated by her endless stream of gossip and semi-nonsensical tittle-tattle. When she realises he is not listening she flies into a rage, smashing the crockery over him, and a fight ensues. Finally he throws a wig in her face, which appears to silence her for good. My music does not follow these events, but is rather a reflection upon the character of Baba – who in the opera is both ridiculous and yet a devoted wife – and upon the ridicule to which such circus freaks have always been subjected. Although it begins in an offhand, playful manner, the piece is a lament and it is this latter character which increasingly dominates the music and takes it down rather different paths from those initially implied. The piece exploits the ranges of all three instruments to the maximum and there is much polyrhythmic dialogue between them.