One saint, three Furies and a thousand miracles from Winchester around 1000

One of ensemble Dialogos’s favourite repertoires – early medieval polyphony from Winchester (10th–11th c.) – is at the origin of this programme. Through the voice of Wulfstan the Cantor, we follow the path of a penitent man haunted by his visionary or terrifying dreams, trying to escape from three raging Furies, wild like wolves, and finally finding salvation from Swithun, saint of all miracles.

Excerpts from the premiere at the Royaumont Foundation on 7th September 2013 (ensemble-in-residence 2011-2014).

The cult of Saint Swithun started when the bishop of Winchester, Aethelwold, transfered the relics of the saint to the Old Minster and celebrated there a sumptuous ceremony on July 15th 971. Thus started an important tradition which transformed this local saint into a sort of Anglo-Saxon medieval Superman, celebrated in the vitruosic Narratio metrica de S. Swithuno by Wulfstan, famous cantor at Winchester cathedral at the end of the 10th century.

The Winchester Troper (early 11th c.) conserves a number of pieces witnessing to, among which a series of virtuosic melodies in honour of Saint Swithun. 

The Miracle of three Furies from this marvellous poem is in the centre of our programme, conceived as a narrative musical theatre project. Three Furies present themselves as three terrifying, naked and vulgar women. They attack a poor man who loses the use of his legs, just after having seen them. He arrives at the gate of Winchester and meets there a man dressed in white. After a series of visions during three nights, the man in white takes our poor man in his hands and steals from him a shoe, which nobody will be able to find. The man remains there as a poor Cinderella, with no shoe, but healed...

Through this initiatory and tender story, where dreams and fantasies build a liberating and exhilarating musical path, Dialogos proposes a creation in which the rich polyphonic tradition from the Winchester Troper dialogues with virtuosic improvisations in a style that Winchester cantors could have heard in their abbey around 1000.

Programme with super-titles

Voices: Clara Coutouly, Christel Boiron, Caroline Gesret, Katarina Livljanić

Direction: Katarina Livljanić