Why compose an opera based on the life of Camille Claudel?
I have been asked this question more than once.
The answer, is that I was simply compelled to do it.
In fact, it all started with a movie. I was flipping through channels and landed on Arte, where they were playing the wonderful 1988 movie about the life of Camille Claudel, starring Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani.
Until then, I confess, I had never heard of Camille Claudel.
I love Depardieu as an actor, and the movie was set in Paris late 1800s, a perfect combo for my taste. I kept watching, and what literally froze my blood was the scream of Camille towards the end of the movie, right outside Rodin’s house.
It was the spark that ignited my creative fever.
I franticly started looking on the bookshelves. I remembered having seen a book on the subject. And there it was, a book on Camille Claudel.
I read the book overnight, started doing more research, and became obsessed. While still reading, I started to jot down an outline of the story, and the script at the same time.
Rose, Rodin’s wife, was not part of the story at the beginning. And then one night while writing, she simply burst in, and I had no choice.
I was sweating. It was the first time I literally experienced creation fever.
I was scared and excited at the same time. I just wanted more and more, like a drug
that keeps feeding itself.
The libretto wasn’t finished, and I had already started on the music. To my great disappointment, I found out I couldn’t work on it while preparing for other concerts, which meant a stop in the process for about six months. Although, I still had a music sketchbook with me all the time to scribble down ideas on the go.
When I applied for the new opera competition at the King Head’s Theater, in London, there were only two scenes that had been completed. It didn’t matter, I presented what I had completed. Surprisingly, I made it right up to the finals.
It didn’t even occur to me that it might have been smart to translate the whole thing in English, for the occasion…
My work continued into the Winter, and by the following Spring, the opera was complete.
I am not the type of person who is easily satisfied about his work, but I was fairly satisfied. Only two things bugged me: the very beginning, and the very end. The only two parts that had been thought over and over again. I ended up rewriting the prelude and cutting the last scene.
Overall, it took half a year of my life, only to give me an greater one.
I never had that high school first love thing you remember all your life, but I surely do now.