Libretto: The Song of Achilles, by Jada Frazier (first year, undeclared)
Jada meets the challenge of adapting an adaptation: her opera uses characters and texts from Madeline Miller’s lyrical novel, The Song of Achilles, which was itself based on characters from Homer’s Illiad. Jada keeps much of Miller’s beautiful language intact, selecting key scenes from the novel, reducing them, and interpolating her own dialogue when necessary. While the opera focuses on the same-sex romance between Achilles and Patroclus, Jada’s choices in constructing the libretto reflect a desire to focus more attention on female characters and to bring issues of sexual violence and exploitation to the fore. She accomplishes this, in part, by placing Thetis’s account of her rape at the very beginning of the opera—a powerful moment in which a female character names the violence done to her over the protestations of another character (in this case, Achilles himself). Jada’s choice to give a mad scene to Achilles places a male character in an unusual subject position, as he experiences a kind of “hysteria” more typical of female operatic leads. She pays close attention to orchestration in her opera, using instrumental music to help her structure scenes and transitions, and even writing a leitmotif to be played on Achilles’ lyre.
The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller, Homer’s Illiad, sexual violence
Musicology | Music Performance
Frazier, Jada, "Libretto: The Song of Achilles" (2016). Music 134: Songbirds and Sirens. 2.