Like Flesh

Chamber Opera

Opera Sivan Eldar
Libretto Cordelia Lynn

Musical direction Maxime Pascal
Stage director Silvia Costa
Duration 90 minutes approx.
Language English


Woman/Tree — Contralto, sixties
Man/Forester — Bass, sixties
Lover — Soprano, thirties
The Forest — Chamber choir

Premiere January 2022

Production Opéra de Lille
Coproduction Opéra national de Montpellier, Opéra national de Lorraine, Ensemble Le Balcon, Ircam-Centre Pompidou. 

Supported by enoa and Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

‘We can tell how light and water loved
And from their longing grew a tree…’

Suffering in an unhappy marriage, Woman yearns for a world beyond the boundaries of flesh and an existence outside of the conventions of human society. A secret young Lover’s desire instigates an explosive metamorphosis, and Woman finds perfect release as a tree. But the world is a dark place for trees as well as humans, and deep in the forest, the Lover and a Forester lay claim to a body of wood and leaf, one for money and one for love.
Inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Like flesh draws on modern environmental science to create a radical and passionate new myth about our broken relationship with an environment in crisis.

Like flesh is written in a series of short scenes, building in intensity towards an ambiguous and violent conclusion. The narrative is divided by poetic choral monologues reflecting the Ancient Greek theatre chorus in keeping with the myths at the opera’s heart. The monologues tell tales of metamorphosis and nature, recounting both stories of creation and stories of human kind’s dependent and destructive relationship with its environment, creating a rich metaphorical world for the soloists to inhabit. The three main characters, the Lover (soprano), the Tree (contralto) and the Forester (bass), are mirrored by two dancer-actors and an instrumentalist, subverting traditional representations of character.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses are tales of passion in extremis, passion so great that the human possessed by it bursts into another form, transcending from the natural into the supernatural. At the heart of many of these myths is a violence in passion, from male to female, and the metamorphosis offers an escape from lust and a climactic but tragic preservation of chastity. But what might these stories offer us if they don’t end on their expected climax?
Drawing from ecological relationship models, Like flesh reimagines what relationships could be in our world – a world that is still resistant to multiplicities of expression. Using gender-ambiguous text, Like flesh also explores a subtler spectrum of sexual identity, bringing the operatic love story to a contemporary, curious and queerer generation.

Woman/Tree – contralto, sixties | Helena Rasker
Forester – bass, sixties | William Dazeley
Student – soprano, thirties | Juliette Allen
The Forest – Chorus

Cello (on stage)

Instrumental Ensemble (11)
Flute | Clarinet | trumpet | Trombone | Percussion | Accordion | String quartet | Contrabass

Chorus (6)
Soprano | Mezzo-soprano | Countertenor | Tenor | Barytone | Bass

Modular array of distributed speakers

Opéra de Lille
Rehearsals / Setup from December 6, 2021 to January 18, 2022
Dress Rehearsal January 19, 2022
Performances (x5) on January 21, 2022 (Opening Night – World Première)
then january 23, 25, 27 and 28, 2022

Opéra Orchestre national Montpellier
Setup, from February 1, 2022.
Rehearsals with orchestra start February 6, 2022.
Performances (x3) between February 11 and 17, 2022. (dates to be specified)

Opéra national de Lorraine
Setup from September 12, 2022
Rehearsals, waiting for schedule.
Performances (x3) on September 30, October 2 and 4, 2022.