Joseph P. Kennedy and his wife Rosemary Kennedy pose with their nine children for this picture in at Bronxville. That was the start of investigating her life and all the events that happened around her. I had no great purpose. It was a kind of reflection on things. That repository included 10 orchestral pieces, about 20 or 30 other fragments of stuff. But I was not really sure what I was doing on any level. They discussed the possibility of using the material as the basis for an opera or other stage work.
Two years ago he met Netia Jones. He really hit it off with the award-winning director, designer and video artist, who works in opera and theatre and also creates staged concerts. The process that would lead to Least Like The Other was in train. It took on a life of its own. But Rosemary Kennedy was a hidden figure. Irvine straddles the worlds of jazz and contemporary music, delights in working with musicians who improvise there will be three in the opera , and has an infectious enthusiasm which extends to working with musically untrained community groups.
We were both very keen to do it very carefully. I think the forces we are now dealing with allow us to investigate this story without needing it to be over-literalised, or made into a formal opera. It allows us to be wary of the subject matter itself.
And later, when she was 23 and her behaviour had become problematic, her father Joe, without consulting her mother, had her lobotomised. Lobotomy seems implausibly primitive from a 21st-century perspective and has long since been abandoned.
She was left unable to care for herself, institutionalised, and, basically, regarded as a dark and embarrassing family secret. Archival material about her has been heavily redacted.
We are friends enough and confident enough to be very brutal. It was such a tortuous, difficult story. It reflected so many things about the Kennedys and their time and beyond. I was just swimming in this sea of Rosemary for five years. Irvine has a more filled-out picture in his head. It was often said she was the most beautiful of the Kennedys, beautiful and poetic.
She did have learning difficulties. But she wrote letters, she kept a diary, she became a Montessori teacher for a while, and she taught young children. Her favourite book was Winnie the Pooh and she could read that to the children.
Every letter that she wrote is so drenched in this want for her father to acknowledge her and love her. Every one of those letters is heart-breaking. She would send reports about her weight, because weight was a huge thing in the Kennedy family, monitoring the weight of all the children. Today, they agree, her fate would probably have been entirely difficult. She would be seen as having learning difficulties and behavioural difficulties.
And now, 14 years after her death, her future is to be immortalised in an opera. See giaf. Get tickets for Christy Moore on September 19th at 8pm for a one-off exclusive livestream solo concert from the National Concert Hall in Dublin, shot in HD on seven cameras.
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