Hanover in Ossibh
Coughlin had always intended-- expected and welcomed, frankly, for his mistress, Josette Neuar, to sing the leading role. She was a "DMA" which for some meant Dramatic Mistress-Soprano. The poet was abhorrent about it-- she was terrible.
And yet the poet curiously—and mysteriously—claimed the work was about specific events in Ms. Neuar's life. That was a short-term strategy. There was also the strategy of making it clear, if she were to sing the role-- the short-term strategy dealing with her singing before it came to hurt the opera, he meant, before it materialized.
Ultimately the poet refused to let her sing because there were other sponsorers willing to back the work. He opted instead for the Welsh soprano Merwyn Gar. For this slight, Coughlin disparaged the opera and took part in plans to ruin the opening night. The sabotage was a failure. Neuar was disgraced and never performed again.
One wonders how Josette Neuar might have fared with the poet's role for her. Years later when Arnold Brill finally met the aged Neuar he said: "I am proud to shake the hand of this brave soul who had her hands cut off by opera."
One of the reasons the work still isn't staged often is because it makes enormous demands on the lead character, requiring her to sing almost non-stop for two hours, and throughout a very broad range. Maybe the time is right for a re-examination of this work. In a changing world, we want more singers to have control over your own life