Protectress, an opera in progress
In Act 1, Scene 1, Medusa awakes from a horrible nightmare with a scream, causing her sisters Euryale and Stheno to rush in. They try to comfort Medusa as she recounts the dream, in which she relived the trauma of her rape by Poseidon. Having achieved a partial catharsis, Medusa allows her sisters to change the subject to her recent interview in Teen Vogue. Medusa has been living openly as her immortal self and wanted to share her story with the world. Her sisters—both still posing as humans— tease her about the interview. Eventually, they wonder if Athena has read the story and gotten angry. The sisters contemplate that possibility while Medusa remembers another dream she had earlier in the week. This leads to a second outburst, where Medusa focuses on her patron goddess Athena’s betrayal: after Medusa was raped, Athena cursed her rather than supporting her. Euryale reminds Medusa that she has moved on and has a full life. Medusa confesses that she is afraid she can’t take the nightmares for much longer, causing the sisters to vow that they won’t let Athena break her. Euryale and Stheno promise to keep Athena from tormenting Medusa, realizing that they have many allies on whom they can call for help.
We begin with a nightmare. Libretto excerpt:
SCENE 1: Medusa’s Bedroom, Dawn
MEDUSA, sleeping in nightclothes and a turban, is in the center. She gradually starts to stir, occasionally turning over and making small noises. She gets increasingly agitated before suddenly sitting upright and screaming ” NO!” (Jamie Lee Curtis-style). The scream should last 2-4 seconds.
MEDU SA looks around panicked, breathing heavily.
STHENO rushes in from off-stage. She is wearing a robe and toweling her hair, as if just having showered.
EURYALE rushes in after her sister. She is dressed and carrying a tablet.
Medusa? What’s wrong?
MEDUSA (tense, panicky)
STHENO sits on MEDUSA’s bed, reaching for MEDUSA’s hand to comfort her, but MEDUSA ignores STHENO and pulls her arms around herself.
MEDUSA (still panicked)
Yes! But worse, worse than ever—
STHENO (trying to calm MEDUSA, touching her shoulder)
You’re awake now.
Talk it out–
that always helps.
We’ve got you.
He was in a form I’ve never seen:
a bull, with hair like foam—
swirled and thick and caught up
EURYALE (sitting at the end of MEDUSA’s bed, reassuringly)
it will help to get it out.
We’re here. We’ve got you.
MEDUSA (with horror)
The foam, the foam was littered
with dark bones,
MEDUSA grasps her blankets. She looks at her sisters but is still clearly panicked by the dream.
of men and horses: sacrifices and murders.
Oh, Duse, Duse…
I couldn’t make out their faces—
but I know— they were the gods Poseidon has trampled.
They hung in his fetlocks,
hair and nails grown long
and brambled as they clung,
wet and eroding
to his legs.
STHENO and EURYALE react, their faces showing horror and concern. MEDUSA continues to grab and pull at her sheets, bunching them all around her like a shield.
Duse—-It’s just a dream/
He simply appeared, and
I was struck fast—
I couldn’t, I couldn’t breathe or move,
standing in the temple like that night he came ashore/
STHENO (strokes MEDUSA’s arm, gently, trying to reason with MEDUSA)
That’s all past.
MEDUSA (continuing as if she doesn’t hear her sisters)
but this, this was worse—
roaring and roaring
like an ocean,
like an elephant seal/
You’re awake now.
like the sun screaming with fire—
You’re safe, we’ve got you.
We’re here, we’ve got you.
MEDUSA (cutting her off)
Like engines revving/
Try to breathe,
like the wind/
like all of the oceans he commands—
STHENO (still reassuring)
not to come near
MEDUSA (her intensity escalating as she recounts the dream)
All I could hear and smell and taste
not to come near you
were his hooves on stone and
spears on shields
spears and shields, spears and shields, spears and shields/
It’s just a dream.
We’ve got you–
We’ve got you–
MEDUSA (as if in a trance)
spears and shields, spears and shields, and
bang bang bang bang bang