Friday, September 18, 2009

Tori Amos and The Light Princess

NOTE: My apologies to my email subscribers who got this post in their inbox without any content earlier today!

Singer-songwriter Tori Amos, who's music is famously "fairy tale influenced" is well into development on a new musical based on a short story fairy tale by George MacDonald: "The Light Princess".

If you're not aware of the story it's a short, funny tale (with lots of puns and tongue in cheek) about a gravity-deficient princess who has trouble falling into/in anything! (She was cursed at a christening by someone who was forgotten from the invitation list- of course).

With chapter titles such as:
"Won't I Just?", "She Can't Be Ours.", "She Laughs Too Much", "Try Metaphysics" and "Try a Drop of Water", you can see there's a lot of 'levity' to this tale.

You can read the story HERE, hear the story HERE and for those interested in studying the form and metaphor of the story further there's an essay by Elmer Schenke available to read online that discusses the story called "ANTIGRAVITY: MATTER AND THE IMAGINATION IN GEORGE MACDONALD AND EARLY SCIENCE FICTION" - you can read that HERE.

But back to the musical.

From the

It figures that Amos, 45, once dubbed "Queen of the Fairies", should be attracted by a story about a princess whose lack of gravity causes her to float above the world. But as the North Carolina-born singer and pianist points out, MacDonald's fantastical allegory has substance and a malleable, enduring resonance, the princess's "lightness" being a vehicle for Amos to explore modern-day illnesses such as anorexia, and other elements of MacDonald's work lending themselves to environmental themes.

This being Amos, we can expect the work (which she hopes to complete by 2010) to be packed with feminist ideas. "The thing about the original story I wasn't crazy about is that the princess's disability gets blamed on an old hag," she says. "We're not going to deal in spells cast by old ladies; we're dealing with problems caused by power and greed, many of which start with men."

This sounds like a weighty interpretation of a story in which humor is integral to both the telling and the tale so I'm curious as to how Tori balances those elements in her version. She's working with writer Samuel Adamson on the story and has already written a few of the songs for her feminist retelling of the story.

Again, from the

Amos says some of the music in the piece is Wagnerian in approach, while one song, "Delectable Guy Pain", was partly inspired by the Shirley Bassey hit "Big Spender". There's an aria for the princess that Amos likens to a darker take on "Memory" from Cats. "Whatever you think of Andrew Lloyd Webber, he knows what he's doing with a melodic arc," she adds.
(You can read the whole of the long article, which discuss Tori's current projects and releases HERE.)

Here's Tori on adapting to the different style of working, with the people from National Theater (from
"It seems to be a full-time commitment," she says of the musical. "I've never written for other people before. Writing for a company and researching their characters, understanding how they speak, working closely with the playwright ... I've never experienced anything quite like it before. The collaboration process that I have when I'm making records is that the material is written and then you're working on arrangements. With 'The Light Princess,' another scene might be written or added or changed, which then will mean that a completely different set of songs have to be written for that scene. I like to work, so I don't mind how much work it takes. I'm not saying I'll never write another one. I'm enjoying it. But if you're writing a musical, you better like your collaborators. I happen to get along with them very well."
You can learn more about Tori Amos, read lyrics from her songs and see lots of lovely things HERE at her website.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this musical turns out!
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