Equal voices choir and piano
Texts by Rimbaud and Shakespeare.
Duration : 17’
Commissioned by Association Sotto Voce.
First performance on april 6th 2008 in Paris (salle Gaveau), by the children’s choir Sotto Voce conducted by Scott Alan Prouty – Piano : Richard Davis

To get the scores, send an email to the association Alcmène : Contact

For Ophelia, the choice of texts – the basis of the idea – is owed greatly to both its patron and first performers: the children’s choir Sotto voce. First, the very young age of its singers gives them an even greater sensitivity for the impassioned flights of lyricism which depict the tragedy of an innocent young girl; then, for some of them, a recent unforgettable experience in the imaginary world of my opera Peter Pan; lastly, thanks to their director, a commanding  and challenging use of the English language.

And so the stage is set for the young and pure Ophelia where a French poet unveils the floating spectre then tells the tragic tale, and where an English poet makes her voice heard in what seems to be the sound of “Neverland” in her memory.

Rimbaud (also very young when he wrote this poem) presents the ghost of the young girl drifting in the water. Her vocalises are heard over the soft and mellow tones of the piano and choir.

In the second part, the poet speaks directly to her. She replies in her own language where her entire script in Shakespeare’s Hamlet resurfaces: from the carefree banter with her brother to the heart-rending suffering at the loss of her beloved, and at the loss of her murdered father,  not forgetting the comedy that she was forced to act. When madness takes Ophelia in its grip, the piano is hushed, and it is a cappella that her voice rings out in rhyme and in song.

Then to finish, Rimbaud presents her again “lying in her long veils”; and it is the hazy  mood from the first part which brings the work to an end leaving the last words to Hamlet  whispering her love and adieu letter over the dying vocalizations of his loved one.

Patrick Burgan


Ophélie Rimbaud                                           Ophelia Shakespeare