Friday, December 13, 2013

Iris Murdoch in Cardiff

In 1980 writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch was in Cardiff in preparation for the debut performance of The Servants. This was a three act opera by Welsh composer William Mathias for which Murdoch had written the libretto. It was based upon her own play The Servants and the Snow. The opera was staged at the New Theatre with Welsh National Opera doing the honours. At the time the opera divided critical opinion but was enthusiastically received by audiences. It has, however, rarely been performed since. Collectors of operatic memorabilia will be aware that during her stay in Cardiff Murdoch and Mathias signed copies of the score which could then be purchased for £50. Keep an eye out for those.

Coincidentally, a few years later when I was doing my English Literature degree, Iris Murdoch turned up at our college to be interviewed on stage. Afterwards there was a Q&A session. It's perhaps a measure of my narcissism that I have a clearer recollection of the question that I posed to Murdoch than the answer she actually gave. If I remember correctly I asked her how she reconciled her antipathy to ego (“the anxious avaricious tentacles of the self”) with the process of writing itself - so much of which arises from within. Her reply was totally incomprehensible to me - entirely down to my own ignorance I hasten to add - and involved Tolstoy and nuns. Murdoch died in 1999 having suffered for several years from the effects of Alzheimer's disease.

*The above picture shows Iris Murdoch outside the New Theatre, Cardiff.