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Music and the Irish Imagination

Thierry Dubost
Alexandra Slaby

Staging Irish music

The Woman Who Walked into Doors Set to Music and Staged

Thierry Dubost


This paper deals with the adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s novel The Woman Who Walked into Doors into an opera. It questions the ethnic aspects of this work from a musical perspective, before focusing on the variously intertwined links between contemporary music and a rather classical text. Structural changes and the setting to music of a novel which deals with the daily misfortunes of a battered wife rebuild in different ways Doyle’s questioning of a society in which such suffering could take place. Starting from the interactions between text and music, the opera is analysed trying, in particular, to reveal the ways in which music echoes the fate of a battered woman described in the novel.

L’article est consacré à la transformation en opéra du roman de Roddy Doyle. The Woman Who Walked into Doors interroge la dimension ethnique de l’œuvre sur un plan musical, avant de s’attacher aux interactions multiples qui s’opèrent entre la musique contemporaine et un texte de facture globalement classique. En l’occurrence, les modifications structurales, ainsi que la mise en musique d’un roman consacré au parcours existentiel d’une femme battue reconstruisent la manière dont Doyle interrogeait la société où ce drame se produit. L’opéra est analysé en mettant au jour, notamment, la manière dont la musique fait écho au destin d’une femme battue, décrit dans le roman.

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Extrait du texte

Music is universal. Only fools and formalists have invented schools and systems! […] There is no such thing as Italian, German or Turkish music – there is one MUSIC! So don’t annoy me with such definitions.
Giuseppe Verdi1

At the risk of having Giuseppe Verdi turn furiously in his grave, or of joining the ranks of fools and formalists, in the following study I shall examine the links between music and a written work of fiction, seen from the angle of the musical reconstructions which were associated with its metamorphosis. These will first be considered from the viewpoint of aesthetic expectations sometimes defined in national terms. The source of this reflection is Roddy Doyle’s novel, The Woman Who Walked into Doors, transformed into an opera by Kris Defoort, and performed at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2003. Without minimising the importance of the passage from one genre to another – from the novel to the theatre, or more precisely, to a form of contemporary opera –, and without...


Thierry Dubost is a Professor at the université de Caen – Basse-Normandie. He is the author of Struggle, Defeat or Rebirth: Eugene O’Neill’s Vision of Humanity (Jefferson – London, McFarland, 1997; 2005), and The Plays of Thomas Kilroy (Jefferson – London, McFarland, 2007). He has co-edited four books: La Femme noire américaine: aspects d’une crise d’identité (1997); George Bernard Shaw: un dramaturge engagé (1998); Du dire à l’être: tensions identitaires dans la littérature nord-américaine (2000); Regards sur l’intime en Irlande (2008); and has edited L’Adaptation théâtrale en Irlande de 1970 à 2007 (2010), all published by the Presses universitaires de Caen. An English version of this book, Drama Reinvented: Theatre Adaptation in Ireland (1970 à 2007), was published by Peter Lang in 2012. He is a former director of the Irish Studies Research Centre at the université de Caen – Basse-Normandie.


Translated from the French by Valérie Burling.

© Presses universitaires de Caen, 2013

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