In Dublin, where she is based, Selima Cartmell is deeply involved in the creation of a controversial new opera – called Gas – that is still in the process of being written.
Based on events in Ireland in 2002, Gas evokes the final days of the life of a 49-year-old Dublin woman with long-term, severe depression who ended her own life with help from two doctors from the United States. “It’s a bizarre story, partly because it involves a road trip to the west of Ireland by the woman and the doctors immediately before her suicide,” says Cartmell. “After the woman’s death, the two doctors flew to Amsterdam to continue their travels.”
Cartmell, who during her mentoring year (2006-2007) observed renowned theatre artist Julie Taymor direct a new opera, Grendel, has been involved in the creation of Gas from the beginning, working with composer Donnacha Dennehy and librettist Simon Doyle. A musical presentation of part of Gas was held in Dublin on 3 October and a semi-staging of the opera will take place this year to allow potential producers and the public to get a taste of this new work. Cartmell expects Gas to have its world premiere in 2011.
“It’s a provocative subject, but one of the most relevant of our day,” she says. “The ethical issues connected to this subject are raising a lot of debate, not only in Ireland, but also in many European countries and elsewhere.”
With a successful Dublin production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd – about a barber who kills his clients to be served up as meat in pies – to her credit, Cartmell says she likes to direct plays with a macabre element. “There is actually a lot of comedy in the dark side,” she says.