Ballet in one act based on
the novel by Henry Rider Haggard
(third act of a
Originally published and distributed in 2003
The full orchestral score for
this work is COMPLETE and ready for performance.
It is recommended the story be read if not in its its entirety, then at least the two
chapters chapters entitled The Spirit of Life and What We Saw.
The great white queen, Ayesha, She-who-must-be-obeyed, has acquired a
Godess-like, immortal state by bathing in the Pilar of Life, a fire possessing fantastical and supernatural qualities, hidden deep within the heart of an ancient volcano, in central Africa, near the
ruins of the once great city of Kor. Two thousand years ago, Ayesha fell in love with Kallikrates, husband of Amenartas, a priestess of Isis with supernatural powers of her own. Kallikrates rejected
Ayesha, who, unable to harm Amenartas, killed Kallikrates instead. Ayesha, immediately overcome with deep regret and lamentation, vowed to await the reincarnation of Kallikrates.
Rider Haggard's masterpiece centres on the travels and adventures of three Englishman - the
young Leo, his foster-father Holly, who is a Cambridge professor, and their servant, Job - as they hunt down the truth regarding an extraordinary tale told to Holly by his friend, Vincey, some twenty
The story takes on an added fascination when the three men open and examine the contents of a
tin box given by Vincey (along with his story) to Holly, with the instruction that it was not to be opened until Leo's 25th birthday. They are particularly intrigued by a fragment of pottery,
the sherd of Amenartas, which tells of a mysterious great white queen, a sorceress, who murdered the man she loved.
Synopsis of the original text. (The Spirit of Life and What We
After a perilous journey, Ayesha, Holly, Leo and Job have reached a rocky chamber. The light
from their lamps casts a dim glow. They are exhausted. Slowly reviving, Ayesha tells the story of Noot, the hermit, and of the flame of life. She tells how, ages past, she had murdered her lover
Kallikrates (reincarnated as Leo) in a jealous rage. She asks for forgiveness; "Thy love, Oh Kallikrates, shall be the gate of my redemption." Leo declares his love and forgiveness. Ayesha, for her
part, swears to "abandon Evil and cherish Good." Their love at last solemnly declared, the party descend deeper into the mountain, "like lost souls in the depths of Hades." Finally they reach the
cavern, lit by a soft, rose coloured light, where the flame of life resides and makes its appearance. While yet wondering at the strange atmosphere, intoxicated by the ethereal glow of the
cavern, the flame approaches for the first time, with a crescendo of thunderous noise. After some short time the flame diminishes and disappears. Ayesha bids them draw closer to the place where the
flame appeared; "...at last we stood before the spot where the great pulse beat and the flame passed". Still stunned by what they had witnessed, the flame again thunderously approaches,
"and with it came the glorious blinding cloud of many coloured light, and stood before us for a space, turning, as it seemed to us, slowly round and round." The flame disappears again. Ayesha
explains that on the return of the flame, they must enter it to receive the gift of imortality which is its power to impart. Kallikrates, at first reluctant, agrees to enter the flame provided Ayesha
precedes him. Even the skeptical Holly decides to enter the life-giving pillar of fire. They wait in silence for the flame to return. As the flame's thunder grows, Ayesha quickly throws off her
clothing and stands, naked, in the place where the flame will manifest. The light intensifies, throwing out lightning bolts as it approaches. Reaching its full radiance Ayesha steps into and bathes
in it, breathing its power into her very being. The trio observe, awestruck, the magnificent scene before them. "But suddenly - more suddenly than I can describe - a kind of change came over her
face." Quickly, all - including Ayesha - realize what has happened; the flame of life, which 2000 years before had given Ayesha the gift of life, was now, for reasons unknown, taking back what it had
given! She shrivels before their eyes untill she become a shrunken mockery of her former self. She dies, the words "forget me not, Kallikrates" rasping from her dried throat. Overcome with shock and
disbelief, Leo, Holly and job faint away.
Synopsis adapted from the musical score.
The action is continuous. (Job does not appear in this act)
Curtain up. Ayesha, Holly and Leo lay on the floor of the cavern of the Flame of life. The
scene is dimly lit by their lanterns, and the rosy after-light of the flame of life. As they slowly revive, Ayesha recounts her story. "The strange tenderness in her voice seemed to hover over
us like a memory." The flame of life appears for the first time. It recedes, and the three engage in an argument (a three part fugue) over the nature of immortality and it's possible
consequences. As calm returns Holly restates his objections and offers a prayer for both Leo and Ayesha. Leo is still undecided, fearful of the flame's power. Now, Ayesha continues her story, but
this time in the form of a slow, mesmeric dance. She moves languorously about and between both men, who watch at first and then engage, helpless and entranced: both know they will follow Ayesha into
the flame! The pillar of fire appears for the second time, more brightly than before, as if sensing the proximity of human desire. It recedes quickly this time as the last set piece (of the three act
work) commences. This is the Dance of the lost souls. Onto the stage come all the spirits of the ancestors, the souls of those who through the ages have been influenced directly or
indirectly, for good or ill, by the spirit of the flame. The dance reaches a climax, the lost souls exit and in a sudden silence Ayesha is left alone in the centre of the stage . She is in a
trancelike state as she confronts, at last, the culmination of her 2000 year vigil. Slowly, the flame approaches for the third and final time. It's thunder crescendos gradually, terrifyingly . Ayesha
unveils, looks at Leo, then, turning to the flame, stretches out her hand to touch the outer part of the fiery pillar. The instant the flame recieves her touch it convulses brilliantly, like a living
thing. Slowly and steadily Ayesha advances, all the while the flame pulsing through the colours of the spectrum. When, finally, she is standing in the dead centre, she stretches out her arms in total
submission, at which instant the flame explodes into a blinding white column of pure, elemental, nuclear radiance: the Pillar of Life. She bathes and breathes in the flame, appearing for a few
seconds as it were translated, inhuman. The colours begin to return to the fire - in the opposite order to which they appeared. Horrified, Holly and Leo see that Ayesha's beauty is
not increasing but decreasing before their eyes. As the colours subside and the flame diminishes, Ayesha takes six increasingly faltering steps towards Leo, then
falls to the ground. Ageing rapidly, her body shrinks. Before she dies she is able to look at Leo and rasp out the words "forget me not, Kallikrates!" The curtain falls as Holly and Leo turn
despairingly towards heaven while the spirit of Ayesha ascends from the wreck of her shrivelled body.
The musical score.
The full score takes between 30 and 35 minutes to perform, depending on tempi. The
orchestration requires the conventional classical forces, with the addition of a section of five saxophones and (for the final appearance of the pillar of fire) an electronic synthesiser or keyboard.
(The horn section has been reduced to two.)
The entire score, or sections of it, are available free on request. Please specify which
format you prefer, sib. files or PDF.
The audio samples given here have been computer generated.
A sumptuous score for a fantastic story
for the highest art form
WHEN PERFORMED AS CONCEIVED, THE RESULT WILL BE A SPECTACULAR OVERNIGHT SENSATION
March Caroline (Classical organ)
Donut King (Jazz big band)
Copyright 2003 Nick Capocci