The Mermaid of Zennor
18th - 19th August 2012, Riverside Studios, London
Tête à Tête Opera Festival
Matthew Tim Langston
Morveren Harriet Eaves
Walker Amy Webber
The Constella Orchestra
Conductor - Leo Geyer
'imaginative and beautifully shaped'
In the Cornish legend, a mermaid becomes entranced by the beautiful singing of a young fisherman called Matthew Trewhella. Every night in the local church, Matthew sings the evening hymn. The mermaid, Morveren, comes in disguise and listens. She always leaves before the end of the hymn and although they never speak, the couple fall in love. One night Morveren accidentally lingers. In her ensuing rush to leave, she trips and exposes her tail. Matthew declares his love for her and returns with her to the sea. Local fisherman claim that, on certain nights, you can still hear Matthew singing over the waves.
In this retelling of the legend, Matthew is washed up unconscious on the shores of modern day Pendour Cove, Zennor. His lover, the mermaid Morveren finds him, but is disturbed by a walker and hides. When Matthew wakes, it appears he has lost his memory, although he gradually recalls meeting someone at the beach and fragments of an old hymn. Matthew’s fixation with the water leaves the walker concerned about his state of mind, but she reluctantly goes to get help. The mermaid remains hesitant to reveal herself. Finally, some broken shells in Matthew’s hands remind him of the pattern of scales on the mermaid’s body. When she does reveal herself, Matthew is taken aback, but eventually regains his full memory of their life together. The walker returns to find a single pair of footprints leading into the sea, it seems that Matthew has given himself up to the water. In her grief she sings the fisherman’s hymn, accompanied by the distant sounds of Morveren and Matthew across the waves.