Fruits of the Earth

Inspired by Latvia's best chef Mārtinš Rītiņš, RIP.

Fruits of the Earth or Zemes augļi is an oratorio about cooking and childbirth for voices and saxophones with music by Nic Gotham. He and I got the idea during lunch at the best restaurant in Latvia, Vincents, where we literally genuflected at the feet of the chef. Our first concept for Fruits of the Earth was the enjoyment of food, but it led to more serious thoughts about being 'food' ourselves — the fruit of the loin, Leibfrucht. 

My libretto consists entirely of found texts drawn from authentic sources from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in five languages: French, English, Latvian, German, Latin.

Part One: Extase du Goût is set in a cooking class in 1826, where the master chef pontificates on food while the sous-chefs crack eggs and bake a custard. The primary text comes from Jean Anthelme-Brillat Savarin, the great French philosopher of gastronomy, with sixteenth- and eighteenth-century recipes in English, German and Latvian.

Part Two: Leibfrucht is set in a hospital in 1752, where the Scottish obstetrician Dr. William Smellie teaches his interns how to deliver a baby. Their voices mingle with those of pregnant mothers and midwives, singing texts from treatises on medicine, midwifery and obstetrics, including Dr.William Smellie's own case studies of labour.

I directed a showcase of the piece in 2003, produced by Latvijas koncerti at the Latvian National Opera, part of an evening including Gift Package by composer Ģirts Bišs.

Performed by the Latvian Radio Choir and the Riga Saxophone Quartet 

Conducted by Kaspars Putniņš 

Available on CD including the printed text.

Advice for labour