Based on the Noh drama Kocho (“Butterfly”), this chamber opera was written as part of my composition folio for my Honours year of study at Victoria University of Wellington. Although at this particular time I had never heard or seen a Noh drama, I was captivated by this text which I had found in the university library, and decided to make my own setting. This particular drama belongs to the genre of “Spirit Pieces” where the chief motivation is the desire for Nirvana promised by Buddha. In Kocho, the spirit of the butterfly is denied the bliss of Nirvana for a specific reason – her desire for the companionship of the plum blossom that blooms before her time. She tells her story to a travelling monk, asking him to pray for her. In the second act, the butterfly dances joyfully amongst the plum blossoms, her wish fulfilled at last.
The musical language I have used is a mixture of freely written tonal passages with strong doses of modal (often rather Asian sounding, although not based on any particular system) and minor harmonies, as well as minimalist elements. The choir sings mainly in unison, and in contrast to a traditional Noh choir is made up entirely of women’s voices. On occasion the pianist takes on a more soloistic role, as does the leader of the orchestra. Presented in an unstaged performance at Victoria University of Wellington, in November 1991.