The Fall of the House of Usher (Hammill opera)

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The Fall of the House of Usher
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 1991
Genre Art rock, rock opera
Label Some Bizzare/Fie! Records
Peter Hammill chronology
Room Temperature
The Fall of the House of Usher
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The Fall of the House of Usher is an opera by Peter Hammill (music) and Chris Judge Smith (libretto). It is based on the 1839 short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe.


Hammill and Smith, two of the co-founders of Van der Graaf Generator, worked sporadically on the opera from 1973 until its first recording was released on Some Bizzare Records (the only instance of Hammill's work appearing on the label) in November 1991. The album was available on CD, cassette and a limited edition of 500 double vinyl LPs. The cast of singers was:

Smith's libretto takes certain liberties with Poe's source text. The House itself becomes a vocal part, to be sung by the same performer who sings the role of Roderick Usher. The narrator, unnamed in the story, is given the name Montresor (the name of the narrator of another tale by Poe, "The Cask of Amontillado"), and a romantic attachment between Montresor and Madeline Usher is hinted at.

In 1999, Hammill regained the rights to the music from Some Bizzare and set about revising the piece. He re-recorded some of his own vocals, although the parts of the other singers were untouched. He also removed the percussion, added more electric guitar and remixed the entire recording. The results were released as The Fall of the House of Usher (Deconstructed & Rebuilt) on Hammill's own Fie! label in November 1999. Hammill regards this version as the definitive recorded version of the opera. [2]

The opera has never been performed live in its entirety. In the 1980s Hammill performed "The Sleeper" a capella at a Poetry reading festival in Amsterdam in October 1983, and in New York in July 1986. At live concerts in 1991 and 1992 Hammill frequently sang a suite of songs from the opera, officially released on the video/DVD In The Passionskirche .

Track listing

  1. "An Unenviable Role"
  2. "That Must Be the House"
  3. "Architecture"
  4. "Sleeper"
  5. "One Thing At a Time"
  6. "I Shun the Light"
  7. "Leave This House"
  8. "Dreaming"
  9. "Chronic Catalepsy"
  10. "Herbalist"
  11. "Evil That Is Done"
  12. "Five Years Ago"
  13. "It's Over Now"
  14. "Influence"
  15. "No Rot"
  16. "She Is Dead"
  17. "Beating of the Heart"
  18. "Haunted Palace"
  19. "I Dared Not Speak"
  20. "She Comes Towards the Door/The Fall"



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  1. Prato, Greg. "The Fall of the House of Usher – Peter Hammill | AllMusic". Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  2. "Sofa Sound - Newsletters". Retrieved 4 December 2017.