Iseult Speaks for Mezzo-soprano and Piano (2016)


Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano and Piano
* Also available for Mezzo-soprano and Large Ensemble
Duration: 40:00
Text by: Elizabeth Hamilton
Availability: Downloadable PDFs

Commissioned by the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra

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Iseult Speaks is an extended song cycle based on a retelling of the Tristan/Iseult myth. For those of you who might not be familiar with the story, the basic outline—and there are many variations on this skeleton—is that Tristan is supposed to bring Iseult to marry his uncle, but on the way they fall in love, usually because of a potion they accidentally ingest. Portrayals of Iseult range from passive cypher to tragic heroine to wanton seductress, but she is almost always cast as a one- dimensional accessory to Tristan.

Elizabeth Hamilton’s evocative and provocative poems reexamine the legend from Iseult’s point of view, here somewhat omniscient and shaded with a modern sensibility that links the tale to contemporary experiences. The text touches on questions of gender roles, societal pressure, and personal power as the narrator contemplates her life, rages against the unfairness of fate, wallows in memories of physical affection, condemns Tristan for his inaction, and vacillates between confidence, insecurity, hope, and despair.

It has been a pleasure setting these gorgeous poems, and I want to thank Elizabeth for trusting me with her words!

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