The opera is based on a true event that transpired in the 1600’s in Aix-en-Provence, France that spurred a rash of following tragedies, specifically the trial of Father Louis Gaufridy accused of possessing two nuns at a convent, Madeleine de Demandolx and Louise Capeau. This was the first event that led to what you might recall is the event detailed in Penderecki’s Devils of Loudin. However, our operas couldn’t be more different. Additionally, our opera utilizes the role of a narrator from today that guides the audience in analyzing the events that transpired through the lens of modern psychology, i.e. sociopathic behavior was often masked as demonic possession.
1600’s, Aix-en-Provence, the first of a series of trials of witchcraft and possession began at a convent at the hand of one Madeleine de Demandolx. She was a very young nun with a history of, through today’s knowledge, clinical depression and bipolar disorder. She met a priest, Louis Gaufridy, who became on the outside, her confessor, but was suspected of being her lover.
A year later, she was sent back to the convent, at which time, he called off the love affair, much to her protest. She went back to the convent, concocted an enormous lie, that she was possessed by him, resulted in her performing the rites of a Black Mass upon herself and cut herself in all the right places making ‘Devil’s marks’ so that her argument against Gaufridy was truly convincing. She stated that he called Satan upon her soul, afflicted her with 666 demons. She convinced, easily, another nun (Louise Capeau, an older, but was an easily influenced nun, who happened to harbor deep jealousy for Madeleine) that by speaking to her, she is now also infected with possession. Together the two weaved a monstrous tale surrounded with deception, all because if Madeleine could not have Gaufridy, then no one could, not even God.
Louise and Madeleine are exorcised by an inquisitor with a growing reputation, Sebastien Michaelis (a monk with a deep seated resentment toward the clergy (priests) for their loose morals…a very politically charged argument at that time). Michaelis used the exorcism as a way to gain power and celebrity in the church, but also to gain political favors in the monastery. Michaelis charged Gaufridy with witchcraft. Gaufridy endured torture and eventually, Michaelis extracted a confession, albeit a false one.
The trial began. First, Louise gave a convincing argument, citing specific demons that were infected by Gaufridy. Then Madeleine gave her testimony that included such grotesque things as losing her virginity to a bull, killing people and being forced to consume their flesh. Finally, Gaufridy is brought to the stand. He recanted all that was in his confession and fought against the arguments that Michaelis put forward. The witnesses and evidence were too convincing that the judge ruled immediately for his execution by fire.
Gaufridy was walked through the streets of Aix for five hours. He was strung up atop the pyre. He was given his last words, those of innocence and devotion to God, and forgiveness to everyone for what he was about to endure. For some reason, he was granted mercy of strangulation before he was burned, perhaps by his convincing argument that in fact, he was innocent of the charges, but the crowd is too blood-thirsty…if the judgment was recanted this late, it would be chaos. The judge holds his ground on granting strangulation, however Michaelis knew this would lay doubt in people’s minds. While the executioner was tying up Gaufridy’s noose, Michaelis ran down to the pyre and lit it too fast to grant strangulation.
After, back in the church, Michaelis questioned the girls to see their state. Louise is still tormented, seemingly gesturing with her eyes that Madeleine is the culprit. Michaelis commited her to an asylum against her protestations. Madeleine states she is cured and that she is leaving the church. Michaelis tried to force her to stay but Madeleine said to him that if he would force her, she would charge Michaelis as the guilty one. The accuser holds the key.
We open on the final scene. Madeleine is sitting at the bench where she first met Gaufridy. A priest sits and inquires into what she is writing. She tells him of a betrayed love, a love that she should have never had. The two begin conversation, she pulls out a peach and offers it to him seductively. It begins again.
Louis Gaufridy: Tenor.
Attractive Priest and perhaps knows it. He loves life, seeks the beauty in it, performing exorcisms as was normal at the time. There are rumors of his liaisons with women of the parish, notably the Lady de la Palud (Madeleine’s mother).Gaufridy is recorded by Christophe Franco-Gelio
Madeleine de Demandolx: Soprano.
The nun at the heart of the story. She is young, blonde, but emotionally unstable. She is of noble birth but put the convent due to instability of the mind. Vain, bipolar and manic.Madeleine is recorded by Melissa Ferlaak
The only character of this time, gothic stylized interpreter of the action with the modern lens of psychology…guides the audience. He also steps into other characters such as the priest, the judge, the executioner, etc. Narrator is recorded by Timur Bekbosunov
Louise Capeau: Soprano.
Another younger nun at the convent, but older than Madeleine and jealous, but easily convinced. She claims purity, but has a bit of drama about her.Louise is recorded by Kassandra Novell
Inquisitor Michaelis: Baritone.
The one to conduct the official exorcisms, conducts the trial, orders the torture and burning of Gaufridy. He is a well-known outspoken critic of the clergy of the time. He utilizes the convictions against Gaufridy for political motivations.Michaelis is recorded by Justin Spenner
Father Domptius: Tenor.
Flemish exorcist, first called to perform the exorcisms on Madeleine and Louise, whose efforts failed. He called for Michaelis.Domptius is recorded by Drake Chrisdensen
The resident exorcist of the parish where Madeleine is a nun. Remillion is recorded by Drake Chrisdensen
Victim Priest: Tenor.
The next victim of Madeleine in the final scene.Victim Priest is recorded by Drake Chrisdensen
Chorus: The chorus permeates throughout the opera as a kind of instrumentation but also steps into roles of nuns, trial witnesses, crowd at the execution. At least ten women and ten men.
released June 29, 2016
© & ® Music: VoA VoXyD 2014/2015 - Libretto: Melissa Ferlaak.
Recorded, mixed and mastered at the Akamaradara Studio, MN, USA. Timur vocals recorded at Wonderland Studio, CA, MN.
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