martin firrell

six women

july 2007

royal opera house, covent garden

20 images

Six Women was commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for the 2007 Hamlyn Performance of Puccini's opera Tosca.

For the first time in the history of the opera house, public art texts were projected onto the main curtain as introductions to each of the three acts of Tosca presented on the 15 July 2007.

The work explored the experiences of passion, sexual desire, jealousy, infidelity and violence in the lives of Ivy, Jeanne, Mary, Leonie, Rita and Isabelle, six women aged between 60 and 84, members of the London Forum for Older People.

Discussing their life experiences candidly revealed truths pertinent to the themes of Tosca, particularly the misuse of power in relation to men's sexual impulses to control women.

This same imposition of male power is seen in Baron Scarpia's attempts to seduce Floria Tosca by offering to spare her lover's life in return for her sexual submission to him.

The project's aim was to inform the Hamlyn Foundation first-time audience of the content and signficance of each act and to demonstrate the relevance of the themes of Tosca to the narratives of real women's lives.

'We're all grown up enough not to be shocked by anything.' Each act was prefaced by a master epigram and then embellished with representative anecdotes from one or more of the six women's lives.

You Can't Shower Because They'll Find You Nude refers to the life experience of one of the women in particular who had lived through the civil unrest and power play of a military coup in Latin America.

Virginia Woolf once wrote that the biography of anyone would be a gripping read, and the lives of these six women lend ultimate credence to that contention.