INNANACARA

&

MEH

Act 1 - INNANACARA ( A hairdresser opera)

 

The Sumarian goddess Innana, like her Greek counterpart Persephone, goes into the underworld for half the year. However unlike Persephone, who by all accounts has a rather miserable time and seems to suffer a weird orthorexia, only eating six pomegranate pips during her entire stay, Inanna takes with her her manicurist and hairdresser and is altogether more in control of the situation.In addition to this she comes back to the daylight with a plethora of some of the most wonderful erotic poetry (on which are based some of Solomons 'Song of Songs') .

INNANACARA is scored for amplified voice and hairdresser with amplified equipment, and takes these ancient Sumarian texts as their starting point accompanied by scissors. 

Act 2 -  MEH (a pub opera)

 

“Enki and Inanna drank beer together
They drank more beer together.
They drank more and more beer together.”

 

Beer is a feminist issue and I have loved it, and been fascinated by it in equal measure, ever since my grandmother made me drink my first icy cold beer sitting in front of her when I was 12.  In ancient Egypt, Greece, and in medieval Europe, women were the brewers, and beer was directly associated with women. The Egyptian goddess Tjenenet was goddess of beer and childbirth, the Greeks considered beer effeminate, and women were the producers and consumers of the drink. In medieval Europe, being a brewer was a good occupation for women, and it even contributed to a level of independence, because women could brew from home. One of the most famous brewsters,  Hildegard von Bingen made an important discovery in the 12th century that the addition of hops lengthens the shelf-life of beer, an incredibly important contribution to enabling a beer-brewing industry.

For the people of ancient Mesopotamia, beer was a daily dietary staple. Paintings, poems, and myths depict both gods and human beings, consuming beer through a straw to filter out pieces of bread or herbs. The brew was thick like porridge, and it is thought that the straw may have been invented by the Sumerians/Babylonians specifically for the purpose of drinking beer. This piece takes excerpts from the Sumarian poem ‘Inanna and the God of Wisdom’ that describes the two deities drinking beer together, the god of wisdom, Enki, becomes so drunk he gives away the sacred ‘meh’ (laws of civilisation) to Inanna (thought to symbolize the transfer of power from Eridu, the city of Enki, to Uruk, the city of Inanna). The Sumarian poem ‘Hymn to Ninkasi’ is both a song of praise to the goddess of beer, Ninkasi, and a recipe for beer, first written down around 1800 BCE. The Sumerians had many different words for beer from sikaru to dida to ebir (which meant `beer mug') and regarded the drink as a gift from the gods to promote human happiness and well being. The original brewers were the priestesses of Ninkasi, and women brewed beer regularly in the home as part of their preparation of meals. Beer was made from bippar (twice-baked barley bread) which was then fermented and beer brewing was always associated with baking. 

‘Meh’ also borrow some text from Hildegard von Bingen, who described the influence of various herbs on human health in her famous medical work Liber Subtilitatum Divers-arum Naturarum Creaturarum (Book about the subtleties of the diverse natural creatures), part I of which is Causae et Curae [Causes and cures (of diseases)] and part II, Physica. In Physica, she describes the preservative qualities of hops when added to a beverage like beer. In the same book, she also mentioned that hop increases melancholy or “back bile,” one of Hippocrates’ “four humors” of physiology. Today we know that hops can relax the nervous system and have a calming, sedative effect, which promotes sleep. This insight made Hildegard a progressive in her time, given that her contemporaries recommended hops as a treatment for exactly the opposite affliction, depression. Hildegard also wrote extensively about barley, which she considered beneficial for the stomach and intestines. Hildegard died in 1179 at age 81, at a time when  life expectancy was 30 to 40 years. Arguably the secret of her longevity was her daily ration of well hopped beer.

The association of women with beer came to an end with ‘The Black Plague’, after which the production of beer became more commercial and industrialised. After the Black Plague, the population was lower, fewer available workers equalled better pay for those remaining, better pay meant more money to spend on beer. So more demand, and the resulting factories, placed brewing in the hands of men, who already had control of the large-scale industry of the land.