Recent Projects

At the end of March Clare McCaldin (mezzo) and Libby Burgess (piano) recoded their new CD for champs Hill records – to be called Notes from the Asylum. Featured on the CD is the world premiere recording of Vivienne, the one-women opera that I wrote for Clare and Libby to perform at the 2013 Tete a Tete opera Festival in Hammersmith. The opera was extremely well received getting a clutch of four and five star reviews. The producer was Matthew Bennett and what I have heard on the first edit suggests it will be a superbly recoded sound with Clare and Libby capturing all of the drama and excitement they conjured in the theatre. It be released later this year.

I am Working on The Walking Shadows, the new work for soloists, chorus and orchestra with a libretto by Aoife Mannix. The text is based on letters and writings to and from First World War soldiers which Aoife and I researched in France and Flanders at the beginning of the Year. Aoife has come up with a stunningly beautiful and powerful libretto. Here is an example from the opening:

I walk like a shadow between the graves,

reading the names, the places, the date they died,

their youth a kind of terrible accusation.

Some speak of God, courage, the day they’ll meet again.

Yet when I think each letter carefully chipped

has to be paid for from their father’s wages,

how they save space by tipping two boys in blankets

into the one hole, how only officers sleep alone in their coffins,

I want to know if Judas got his shillings or is God’s kiss

just as hollow and cold as this field with its rows and rows of stones?

Poet in a landscape of war: Aoife Mannix at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Flanders

Poet in a landscape of war: Aoife Mannix at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Flanders

I am also in the early stages of work on a new opera for Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. It is based on Steve Gooch’s play Female Transport about the women who were transported to Australia in the early nineteenth century in appalling conditions. That they survived at all is miraculous, that they eventually thrived is a testament to the women’s’ courage and tenacity. The opera – which will be premiered in July 2016 – will be for a cast of predominantly women and significantly increase the number of roles where women rather then being victims are empowered by their experience and show that they are capable of overcoming the odds against survival. It will be directed by the brilliant opera director and writer Olivia Fuchs. More news as things develops…

Finally for now, The Two Moors Festival has just announced that casting for the revival production of Tarka the Otter in Exeter Cathedral in October will include Donald Maxwell and Helen Sherman (Mid wales Opera’s wonderful Carmen last Season). It will be directed by Thomas Guthrie – who starred as the Officer in the original production – and conducted by Nicholas Cleobury who conducted the premiere. This is real luxury casting and promises to be a fantastic production.

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