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Goliath (1) - story & characters

Writing an opera (1) - story & characters

A couple of months back, I submitted a proposal for an opera I'd like to write to Strange Trace Opera, which they then decided they'd like to commission, record and produce as part of their Stencils Festival in the spring of 2021.

So I had to write an opera

There's a saying that, "History is written by the victors" and with this in mind, my proposal hinged around a retelling of the familiar biblical story of David & Goliath, but told from the perspective of the Philistines (who lost), rather than the biblical perspective of the Israelites (who won). In the four scenes of this one act opera we see peaceful giant Goliath recruited as the champion of the Philistine army and sent out (against his best judgement) to challenge the Israelites to single combat.

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There's a few sub-themes running through the opera - it explores traditional gender roles, toxic masculinity, the ultimate futility of war and perhaps even a sideways glance at the current situation of occupied people globally. Let's introduce the characters...


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The titular Goliath (Joshua Scheid) is the main protagonist of the story. At the start of the opera he's working as the quartermaster for the Philistine army, managing the stores and lamenting over his people's losses. Because of his remarkable size and strength, he finds himself (rather unwillingly) pushed into the role of the Philistine's champion, equipped with an over-sized shield and spear, and sent out to challenge the Israelites to single combat...

Goliath's music is tinged throughout with the inflections of American blues. He's carrying the weight of his people's oppression as well as the weight of their expectation. In a way, Goliath represents the exploited worker everywhere, lionised for his physical strength, while his emotional needs and desires are never even considered by those who command him, and cajole him with the twin nonsenses of "patriotism" and "duty"

The Boy

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Accompanying Goliath as friend, coach and shield-bearer is The Boy (Erin Matthews). He looks up (literally) to the gentle giant Goliath, and encourages him in his new role. He delights in the idea that Goliath might just be the champion his people need, and can't wait to see him crushing their enemies to bits. He's surprisingly bloodthirsty for one so young, but he still sees war as a glorious adventure! The Boy is the only character to appear across all the scenes of the opera - he's the narrative "glue" of the story.

Most of The Boy's music is exciting and lively, bouncing with the enthusiasm of youth, although also echoing in many place the melodic lines of his two heroes - Goliath and The General, her twin models of masculinity - Goliath's physical strength and the power of authority & rank embodied by The General. This youthful enthusiasm is also reflected in the way his music often uses rhythmic and melodic devices from contemporary electronic dance music styles such as trap and dubstep.

The General

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And completing the trio of characters is The General (Elena Stabile) It's her idea to find a champion to break the military stalemate, and she sees Goliath as another tool to be used... a rather large, manly, and honestly quite attractive tool, actually. She delights in the power and authority of her rank, and sees death and injury as just part of the cost of making war.

Her music is powerful, lyrical and impassioned, often recalling dance and song forms of the traditional music of the Middle East as she calls to patriotism and the fight for the "motherland", and also appeals to Goliath using more subtle wiles as well...