But she found the idea of these two men, who had already had incredible success apart, getting together to look back on their lives really interesting.
“I wanted to do something that would excite people,” she says. “So I thought Philip Glass, and I love the polarizing nature of his work.”
She had heard a recording of the piece and felt it would benefit from a more operative treatment, to bring out the passion of the poetry, give it “an injection of operative drama”.
And while people might be familiar with Glass’ work from his acclaimed film scores, or from recordings, it’s rare to hear his music played live – and that makes a difference, Thompson says.
“It speaks to people intimately and directly and there’s nothing like that.”
A common criticism of this work is its rather old-fashioned male perspective, its “glorification” of the objects of the poems’ desire.
Thompson says they have “stacked” the ensemble with women – assisted by Glass himself, who gave male-voiced lines from the poems to sopranos to sing. “It does lend itself to being molded to be more representative,” Thompson says.
“One of the things I think the audience will feel is a sense of excitement from everybody who is there, playing or singing or conducting.
“There’s this mass which is insistent and hypnotic and then all of a sudden, out come solos for individual voices which are absolutely beautiful and surprising.
“I love traditional opera, but I’m happy for other people to do it – I think everyone is open to difference soundscapes, even if they might not realize it.
“I keep saying to the singers, ‘We want it to be transcendent.’”
Book Of Longing is at The Edge at Federation Square on Friday May 13 and Saturday May 14.
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