The Last Words of Ophelia

The Last Words of Ophelia


for flute and piano (5')

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Completed in October, 2006.

Dedicated to Jennifer Chen. World premiere on November 10, 2006 by Jennifer Chen (flute) and Jian Liu (piano).


One of the most fascinating characters in all of Shakespeare is Ophelia, whose downfall and eventual suicide are described in Hamlet. Far from an active player in the drama of the story, Ophelia’s life is ruined by others, and her descent into madness is a reflection of the madness around her; she is the proverbial canary in a coal mine.

In The Last Words of Ophelia, I imagine a final monologue, absent in the play, delivered by Ophelia right before she plunges herself into the water. The piece is permeated by short, stuttering lines in the flute and sad, eternally-falling lines in the piano. Interspersed, however, are bursts of fantasy in the flute - free and Romantic images of the beautiful life Ophelia once had. In the end, when the piano has fallen into its depths, Ophelia, rather than falling, ascends into the highest possible register, and is redeemed. 


This recording comes from a performance by Sarah Frisof (flute) and Daniel Pesca (piano) in 2011.