Word Guide


An opera based on the Inanna poems was first conceived in 2002 after a
reading of various translations of the ancient texts. Several musical
sketches were made, but work did not begin in earnest on the opera until
February 2003. A librettist was contacted, and the composer began work on
the orchestral sections that required no libretto. After these were
completed there was as yet nothing forthcoming from the librettist, so the
composer began adapting the original poems himself for various scenes. At
first he wrote only those scenes requiring minimal dialogue, but as the work
progressed he undertook to construct the entire libretto on his own rather
than delay work on the project. Given the nature and beauty of the original
texts, he did not find it as difficult a task as originally anticipated to
render the Sumerian poems into a suitable libretto. The present draft was
completed in 20 weeks, with the work concluding on July 9, 2003.

There were various difficulties to be overcome in making an opera out of
these ancient texts. The tales related in the story date to circa 3000 B.C.
and survive mostly in fragments. The poems represent a series of
disconnected tales, some of which appear in themselves to be fragmentary.
There was no Inanna “novel” from the period, so the opera has attempted to
weave together in one narrative three principal episodes from the surviving
texts: the tale of the huluppu tree, the tale of the courtship of Dumuzi
and Inanna, and the epic known today as “The Descent of Inanna."

The music for Act I is largely bucolic, reflecting the agrarian society out of
which the stories evolved. Acts II and III, which comprise the crux of the
“Descent” narrative, are considerably darker in tone than the first act and
incorporate a large battery of percussion instruments.

Instrumentation on the whole is very conventional. Only one electric
instrument is used in the score (the vibraphone), and only one unorthodox
special effect (the wind effect in Act III, accomplished not with a wind
machine but by having the brass players blow air through their instruments).
The vocal parts are not inordinately challenging, though they do call for
singers with moderately extended ranges. Inanna’s role utilizes frequent
high B’s and C’s, ranging at times to C-sharp and to one brief high D. Most
other roles are more “tame.”

Staging has been reduced to a minimum by allowing the music and the
narrations by the Chorus of Mortals to present parts that otherwise would
necessitate elaborate staging effects. Costuming is envisioned to be
representative of the dress of ancient Sumer, and numerous examples may be
found in surviving stelae and sculpture from the period.

It is important to note that mortals assumed a peculiar posture when
honoring a god in ancient Sumer, this being the act of placing one hand (and
in some cases both hands) in front of the face, palm inward, about 15 inches
from the face. This is the posture referenced when cast members are
instructed to assume a Sumerian prayer position.

The opera is dedicated to the memory of the late Dutch composer Ton de Leeuw
(1926-1996), whose works have greatly influenced this composer. Although
Inanna is not written in the advanced musical style of de Leeuw, it is hoped
that the result is such that it presents a suitable memorial to his life and
honors the significant contributions he made to the musical world of the
twentieth century and beyond. It is further hoped that his works, like
those of Enheduanna and other poets of ancient Sumer, stand the test of time
and serve as inspiration to generations hence. May his memory be eternal.

Technical Information


2 flutes (1 doubling on alto flute), oboe, English horn, Bb clarinet, bassoon, Bb cornet, 2 horns in F, tuba

Harp, harpsichord

Violins I & II (including solo violin), violas, violoncellos, double basses

Timpani, bass drum, snare drum, bongo, woodblocks (2), cymbals, triangle, tam-tam, tubular bells, gong, vibraphone, marimba

Performance Time: Total performance time is approximately 2 hours, 50 minutes.

Score: A copy of the score may be requested by writing to the composer. Total length: 1,030 pages.

Additional information: The entire libretto may be viewed by clicking here. The libretto page also contains links to several audio excerpts from the opera. For additional information about this work, please write to the composer.

Copyright © 2003 by John Douglas Craton All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reprinted without permission.
For more information, contact the composer
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