The Medea Krater, Lucanian Red Figure, ca. 400 BC. Cleveland Museum of Art
Midi (Medea) is a native singer in the bar of a hotel/brothel in a city in the French West Indies, c. 1930. She is also a sorceress, a descendant of the Sun himself, loved and feared on the island. She lives with a dubious American "businessman," Jaz, who is unfaithful and physically abusive. She could destroy him with her magic, but, loving him, she is helpless. They have two children.
In a prelude, Midi dances with her familiar spirits, leading into Act I, set in the hotel bar, Midi sings about herself as a Sun-creature, the rain, and Jaz. Jaz appears in the street outside with his new lover, Claire, the Governor's daughter, whom he has promised to marry. They argue. Midi sings a song about how, as a young adolescent, she embraced her divine nature and her attendant powers, which includes reading the truth when people lie. Claire sends Jaz in to break with Midi. Drunk, he lacks the courage, tells Midi familiar lies, and embraces her. Claire takes charge, causing an exchange that comes near violence, ultimately leaving Midi in misery.
In Act II, set in Midi's ancestral house the next morning, she awakens in total devastation and confusion. She goes to the corner of the room where she has set up an altar to her gods, prays, and performs a ritual. Meanwhile Jaz enters with a suitcase to collect his belongings...as well as some of hers. He has brought Claire's old nurse along to help him take the children, whom he plans to send away to another island. Her religious observances completed, Midi confronts Jaz. Overcome with her old feelings for him, she seduces him. Infuriated by his loss of power, he beats and rapes her. She reaches for a coutelas to kill or mutilate him, but he runs away. She leaves the room with the weapon to kill their children. She reemerges covered in blood. Claire arrives and taunts her. In response, she uses magic to set fire to Claire. Through these terrible acts she takes full possession of her divinity. Jaz reappears. The scene closes with a furious exchange between them, and Midi prays to her ancestor the Sun to set fire to her ancient home, his temple.
There is a transitional scene in front of curtain, in which Midi's ancestral house burns down, and her worried friends look for her.
In the final scene of Act II and the opera the location changes to an open area by the shore, where a seaplane, moored to a dock, waits for Midi to fly away. Her friends and audience from the 'Ti Métropole gather to say farewell. She sings a final song for them, The Song of Secrets, resists attempts to persuade her to stay, and boards the plane. Meanwhile, Jaz arrives, drunk, and accuses Midi of the murder of their children and Claire. He pulls out a revolver and attempts to shoot her, but he misses and is overpowered by the people, who leave him lying unconscious on the ground. She enters the plane and flies away into the sun.
The first act was performed at the National Opera Center of Opera America in New York City in October, 2016, in a workshop organized by American Opera Projects.
Vocal Score, Act I (pw protected)
Vocal Score, Act II (pw protected)
AOP Workshop of Act I, October 24, 2016/
Video and Audio Excerpts