Thérèse is my only existing full-scale opera. It was commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and is a gigantic musical palindrome dealing with the total loss of faith, at the end of her life in excruciating physical pain, of the nineteenth century French saint, St Thérèse of Lisieux who died aged 24. I feel that it is a very important piece stemming from the musical and mystical canons of Ultimos Ritos, but using Thérèse’s own last words, the Song of Songs, and with a libretto by Gerrard McLarnon. He said of working on Thérèse that she turned from a little flower, which was her own description of herself, into a mighty tree. He introduces the character of Rimbaud who never knew Thérèse but lived at the same time, and he acts as a kind of psychopomp wildly accusing Therese of spiritual arrogance and withering her down to a terrible humility. In her agony she prays for the soul of the murderer Pranzini, appears to the dying in the First World War on the fields of Flanders and finally sings in ecstasy with the voice of Christ her last words “Oh how I love Him”.
I think Thérèse should be revived in a new production because I think it was largely misunderstood at its premiere, although the distinguished music critic Peter Stadlen saw it’s huge importance as important as Ultimos Ritos in so far as Thérèse is a physical manifestation of the ‘dark night of the soul’ moving dramatically in ninety minutes between two statements: first, “I do not know how to die” then “Oh how I love Him”.