Fanny and Alexander

  • Fanny & Alexander

An operatic drama in two acts, based on the film by Ingmar Bergman. Book and lyrics by Keith Warner. Music by David Blake.

Composer: Blake, David

In Bergman’s autobiographical drama the Ekdahls are an upper-middle-class theatrical family who are sheltered from the chaos of the outside world. Fanny and Alexander follows one tumultuous year in the lives of the family - and the eponymous siblings - through the eyes of ten-year-old Alexander, whose imagination fuels the magical goings-on leading up to and following the death of his father. The children’s mother Emilie’s subsequent remarriage to an authoritarian bishop banishes Alexander and his sister Fanny from all they enjoy and sees them confined to their bedroom, as an almost gothic horror story unfolds.

During rehearsals of our ‘entertainment’ “Scoring a Century”, Keith Warner and I discussed the possibility of writing a musical. One of his ideas for a subject was Bergman’s masterpiece ‘Fanny and Alexander’. I had seen this a couple of times and loved it. I found it beautiful, warm and funny, intense and true. I encouraged him to proceed. As passages of text and some lyrics arrived, I realised that his treatment was going to be exceptional. Many of his solutions to tricky problems, for instance the death of the Bishop, are brilliant and inspired.

The work turned out to be neither a musical nor an opera, hence our title ‘operatic drama’. The musical idiom is consistently diatonic and the melodic material lyrical and, I hope, attractive. The colourful cast of characters provides scope for a wide variety of moods and the darkness of the Bishop’s castle scenes balances the jollity and humour of the opening Christmas party. Emilie’s lyric aria, the three bedroom duets culminating in a sextet,  the children’s duet of bewilderment at Oscar’s death, Isak’s patter song, the Bishop’s big aria sung to the children, a creepy amalgam of false bonhomie and threat, these and the big funeral procession scene provide an interesting colourful and dramatic spectacle. The overall shape of a progression from Christmas festivities through menace and cruelty to a happy resolution is satisfying and heart-warming.

- David Blake

1 (picc). 1 (ca). 2 (2 = bcl). 1 / / Pno / 2 Perc (timpani, side drum, tenor drum, bass drum, small and medium suspended cymbals, cymbals, glockenspiel, triangle, sleigh bells, tambourine, wood block, claves, whip, guiro, rattle) / Str / on-stage piano

Full Score | Vocal Score | Libretto