Gavin Bryars, born in Yorkshire, was “first of all a jazz bassist and pioneer of free improvisation with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. He subsequently worked in the USA with John Cage and in Britain alongside Cornelius Cardew. His early iconic works Sinking of the Titanic (1969) and Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971), both enjoyed major recording success in various versions. He has written extensively for the stage, including three full-length operas and dance works for, among others, Edouard Lock, Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe. Bryars has been associated with many visual artists, as well as with early music performers, and has a long list of instrumental, orchestral and vocal works to his credit, for artists such as the Hilliard Ensemble, Red Byrd, Trio Mediaeval, Latvian Radio Choir and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Gavin Bryars now lives in Leicestershire and British Columbia and, as well as composing, performs internationally with his own acclaimed ensemble.
On September 13 and 14, 2013, Aventa presented the premiere of Gavin Bryars’ opera Marilyn Forever. Commissioned by Aventa, the opera is based on aspects of the life of actress Marilyn Monroe, with libretto from British Columbia author and poet, Marilyn Bowering. Under the direction of Canadian stage director Joel Ivany, the opera featured Faroe Island’s premiere vocalist Eivør Pálsdóttir performing the role of “Marilyn” and Denmark’s Thomas Sandberg as “the men” in her life.
Marilyn Forever examines Marilyn Monroe’s intellectual and emotional relationship to death and love. As the work progresses, the performance interweaves what is taking place on stage with the trajectory of Monroe’s life through relationships, fame and myth. Ultimately, the characters of the musicians as performers and men in Monroe’s life fuse with the forces that lead to her death. Marilyn Monroe is often looked at as a sex object, victim or fantasy. In this work, we are given through Monroe’s own voice, her combination of sensitivity and exhibitionism, allied to the narrative of the “chorus”, a view from the ‘inside’ of the conflicting emotion and ambitions of this compelling and timeless personality.