The Art of Venus
Chamber opera for 5 singers and 4 instruments. Text by Max Waller & Edward Lambert 2015 35’
In 2013, the selection process began to find crews for the first one-way missions to Mars. In 2027, as the spacecraft hurtles through space, humanity holds its breath… can the planet be colonised? But has anyone reckoned on Venus? An opera about the power of the gods - and a myth waiting to happen.
Venus: mezzo soprano
3 'Earthlings': soprano, tenor and bass
We are introduced to Three Earthlings as they blast off from Earth on their one-way mission to settle on Mars.
Mars himself recalls his union with Venus and his glorious past as a god; if only humans would return to him and he could see Venus once more in the flesh.
In the confines of their spacecraft, the Earthlings are excited and apprehensive about their future: they are moved to ecstasy by their view of Earth to which they will never return and the prospect of their new life on the Red Planet.
As they report to Mission Control, Mars thinks he hears voices, then is surprised and delighted by the appearance of Venus herself. Older now, she scornfully refuses his advances; degraded in Art as an object of human lust, she has come in revenge to thwart the Earthlings’ plan. She destroys the nude painting Mars has of her.
Learning that humans are coming not as worshippers but as conquerors, Mars falls grief-stricken and Venus castrates him with her knife. Triumphantly she observes the spacecraft plummet into oblivion.
In 1914 Mary Richardson, a prominent suffragette, entered the National Gallery with a meat cleaver, and repeatedly slashed the painting by Velazquez known as the Rokeby Venus. So shocking was this incident, that contemporary reports describe “cruel” wounds as though inflicted on an actual female body rather than on a artwork."The incident has come to symbolize a particular perception of feminist attitudes towards the female nude; in a sense, it has come to represent a specific stereotypical image of feminism more generally.” (Lynda Nead, ‘The Female Nude: Art, Obscenity, and Sexuality’, NewYork, 1992). Mary Richardson later joined the Fascist party.