Daryl Runswick
Lady Lazarus
  Judith Rees

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The controversy over Sylvia Plath's suicide on February 11th 1963 has not abated in the half-century-plus since. Whatever its reason, and whatever Ted Hughes's part in it, we can be sure, not only from the historical evidence but from what she says in Lady Lazarus (written less than four months previously) that this was not her first or even second suicide attempt. In some ways a bitter polemic, the poem is also a very funny piece which takes swipes at religion, the medical profession (both of these identified in various ways as bastions of male fascism) and those ghouls and voyeurs who congregate at a disaster – the same people who, since her death, have plagued her and her husband more than she could have anticipated. In my setting I have tried to give the performer scope to show the many ways, sarcastic, hysterical, pathetic and alienated, in which Plath's wit found tongue.

from the CD The Voice Theatre of Daryl Runswick





I wrote Lady Lazarus for Judith Rees in November 1984, on tour with Electric Phoenix in San Diego, California. While the other members (plus assorted children) spent their day at SeaWorld getting splashed, I stayed in my hotel room and, turning on my recording Walkman, improvised – sang, shouted, gasped, rasped, whispered and screamed – a version of the text, repeating some portions. Then I listened back, transcribing what I liked best from each recording and newly composing certain bits.

I was in a fertile seam of inspiration at this time. 1983's Cool>Warm>Hot had been followed in 1984 by I Sing The Body Electric and Lady Lazarus, then in 1985 came my Off Broadway King's Singers arrangements.

Lady Lazarus was for some time my most famous piece, replacing Suite and Low, my double bass quartet of 1976. Very many sopranos and mezzos have taken it into their repertoire.



  Judith Rees


Produced by Daryl Runswick.
Recorded by John Whiting at October Sound, London, January 1994.
Mixed by Daryl Runswick at The DReam Room, April/May 1994.
This recording is covered by copyright