The Art of Venus
A post-baroque opera
3 Earthlings embark on the first one-way mission to Mars. To what extent would leaving Earth for good feel like dying? Can we seriously live in a different environment from the one that has nurtured us? One of the hazards of space travel is a psychological freaking-out known as the Overview Effect and our volunteer astronauts find much to sing about when gazing back at the Pale Blue Dot - to which they will never return. In parallel to this adventure, there’s Mars, the Roman god, abandoned for two millennia but with an intuition that humans will return to him one day. And then comes Venus: beautiful still, but much wiser now, and militant. Her character was inspired by the story of Mary Richardson, the suffragette, who in 1914 slashed the Rokeby Venus in the National Gallery with a meat cleaver. She revealed that she hated the way nude paintings were "gloated over by men" (and she later joined the Fascist party). Certainly, the character of Venus became an excuse for artists to portray the female form in an ever more revealing and sexualised manner and her private parts are now on display in almost every art gallery in the world. So as the spacecraft approaches Mars, Venus seizes the moment to thwart the invaders - and also the aspirations of all mankind. Thus, the interactions between humans, gods and their habitats become the subject of a bizarre allegory whose musical style deliberately evokes the bel canto of baroque opera.