Inanna: An Opera of Ancient Sumer/John Craton

     The story of Inanna (Queen of Heaven) dates to 3000 B.C. in the city of Ur in ancient Sumer. Inanna was the godess of love, fertility and war. The Akkadians called her Ishtar. She appears in a number of fascinating myths and stories, including a cycle of poems describing her relationship with her lover Dumuzi — called Tammuz by the Akkadians — who is the god of vegetation.

     When John Craton, the prolific American composer, decided to write an opera, he wanted a story no one else had done. He found the story of Inanna, but the composer Jenni Roditi had already used it for a short avant-garde opera. Another version existed as a rock opera. Yet the story was too good to pass up. Before finishing his opera, in 2003, Craton learned that the Dutch composer Luis Andriessen had already been working on his own version of the story. He also discovered that Canadian composer Rudolph Peters had been commissioned to create the story of Inanna as an opera.

     "I since have learned of a few others," Craton notes. "I have not heard any of the others except for Roditi's. By the time I learned of the others I was too far along to abandon the project."

     Craton's opera Inanna is a large-scale work for full orchestra, singers and dancers. Using poetry and narratives from the period, the opera retells three episodes from the Inanna Poems: the tale of Huluppu Tree, the courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi, and Inanna's descent in to the Underworld.

     In his opera Inanna, Craton also follows a tradition set in the 19th century, especially by the Paris Opera, requiring a ballet sequence in operas. Verdi, Gounod, Meyerbeer and many other opera composers of the time included such dance sequences in their stage works. "I'm somewhat of the old school where opera is conerned," says Craton. "I always felt opera to be the ultimate art form and should include aspects of all the arts: music, drama, graphic arts and dance. I definitely wanted to include dance in Inanna. I also believe the ballet helps describe the presence of the serpent, Anzu Bird, and Lilith in the Huluppu Tree."

— Obelit Yadgar

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