News No. 3 Spring/Summer 2011
Return to Turnage‟s First Triumph operatic terms and one that certainly made the headlines in broadsheets and tabloids alike.
As a composer, Mark-Anthony Turnage has an uncanny knack of making an impact. This was all too evident in February when the Royal Opera House premiered his latest opera Anna Nicole, a production that it would not be unfair to describe as a smash hit in
Every bit as brilliant and provocative is Turnage‟s first operatic venture, Greek which we will be taking on tour in a new co-production with Theatr Brycheiniog this summer and autumn. It made a sensational impact when it was first staged at the Munich Biennale in June 1988 despite Turnage being a relatively unknown composer at the time. Within two years of its German premiere, the opera travelled to the Edinburgh Festival, transferred to the screen in an award-winning film version by the BBC and made the Laurence Oliver Awards shortlist following its London staging by English National Opera - quite a feat!
Based on the play of the same name by Steven Berkoff, Greek is a contemporary re-telling of the Oedipus myth set in the East End of London. Turnage has spoken of the “exhilarating shock” he felt on first encountering Berkoff‟s work. “His combination of poetry, humour and physical theatre is incendiary” he says, adding that Berkoff‟s language “has exactly the right combination of high-flown lyricism and earthy, everyday speech - a heady cocktail of Shakespeare and Cockney”. From these ingredients Turnage created a ground-breaking work: an opera, yes but also a robust piece of physical theatre fizzing with raw energy and pungent melancholy. Full Tour Dates on page 4
An Unseen but all-seeing Presence MTW‟s Press Consultant Faith Wilson interviews the man who captures all our productions through the eye of a lens If opera and classical music photography has a gold standard, Clive Barda is surely its principle exemplar. For over forty years, his dynamic images have captured some the greatest names in classical music, and have provided a vivid record of successive productions by all of Britain‟s leading opera companies. Clive Barda is, unquestionably, the doyen of performance photographers, and Music Theatre Wales counts itself fortunate to have him as its official photographer – a relationship which dates back to the company‟s production of Michael Berkeley‟s opera Jane Eyre in 2000 – indeed, who amongst MTWs followers will forget his moody, allusive close-ups of a tightly-corseted Natasha Marsh as the opera‟s eponymous heroine? (Continued on page 2)
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was cast. It led to regular work with EMI and gave him access to “all the most amazing names in the world of classical music of the time” including, notably, Yehudi Menuhin and Jacqueline du Pré.
To find out what factors shaped his career and what excites him as a photographer, I meet him on a wintry February afternoon at London‟s Garrick Club, where he‟s perfectly at one with his august surroundings – immensely affable, tweedsuited and sporting the trademark bow-tie.
But no opera yet? “That came in 1974. I was taking photos of an orchestral rehearsal in the Crush Bar of the Royal Opera House and there was an opera dress rehearsal taking place in the main auditorium. I was invited to attend.”
A career as a professional photographer, it seems, arrived almost by chance: as a young man he doubled working in the City by day and studying for a Modern Languages degree by night. And yet, dig deeper and you see that there‟s a steely determination there, and a capacity for hard work which transformed the purest strokes of luck into golden opportunities. With twinkling eyes he recalls his „Damascene moment‟ – a chance encounter in Spain with a young woman, the production secretary of a West Country lifestyle magazine. “She asked me to photograph the harpist Susan Drake for the magazine and I remember that I took them with a Canon Canonet (my first camera, which my mother had given me for my 21st birthday) much loved, but no more than a tourist camera really”.
Interestingly, he doesn‟t remember what that first opera was, but he certainly remembers the next one – John Copley‟s classic production of La bohème with marvelously detailed set designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman and a young José Carreras as Rodolfo. His record of the production cemented his relationship with the Royal Opera House and soon he was to become the photographer of choice for many other British companies. I wondered what it is that engages him, that makes the difference between a very good photo and one that leaps off the page? I‟m thinking here of his electrifying portrait of Simon Rattle - fist clenched and all of a roar as he urges his players on - which graces the cover of Clive‟s book Performance!. I‟m thinking, too, of his iconic photograph of a Dame Joan Sutherland as Lucia di Lammermoor, in bloodstained nightdress and full lamentation, or of the way he has so perfectly captured Natalie Dessay‟s urchin antics in La Fille du Regiment. The list is endless.
It was the beginning of a series of regular assignments with the magazine, and of rapid camera upgrades. The Susan Drake photos reached the marketing desk of Argo and, hey presto, the classical music recording company commissioned a series of album covers. The real turning point, however, came in 1970 with an altogether starrier chance meeting with Daniel Barenboim backstage at the Festival Hall. With a characteristic combination of chutzpah and ambition, Clive persuaded Barenboim to spare the time for a photo shoot – and the die
Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré
“I want to be creatively stimulated by what I see on stage, and
of course it‟s important to have a rapport with the artists and productions I‟m photographing”. But it‟s not just the personal chemistry that makes a difference. He needs to know each opera he photographs like the back of his hand so that he can anticipate and capture crucial moments and key characters. When it comes to productions of contemporary opera – Music Theatre Wales‟s stock-in-trade – they are often an unknown quantity until the vital days in the theatre leading up to the first night. That‟s why you will see Clive Barda in the run-up to a new MTW production sitting, listening, observing intently and documenting two, three and even four rehearsals leading up to the first night. Asked what are his most memorable Music Theatre Wales productions, he immediately singles out Michael Berkley‟s Jane Eyre for its hall-of-mirrors setting, Ace McCarron‟s atmospheric lighting and for Natasha Marsh‟s grave, concentrated performance as Jane. He remembers, too, the madcap eccentricity of Lynne Plowman‟s second opera, House of the Gods and, more recently, the travails and triumphs of that other Michael Berkley opera, For You, which he documented faithfully and vividly during its protracted journey to the stage.
House of the Gods
And despite the scores of other productions he must have covered in the meantime, there‟s something he remembers about each and every one of MTW productions over the last ten years, because he‟s become like so many of us who work regularly with the company – a member of the family.
Michael Rafferty (Photo: Clive Barda - who else?)
Finding Space to Create ... Over the last few months there have been fewer sightings than usual in the office of one of our Artistic Directors, conductor Michael Rafferty. This is not to say that he has been shirking his duties though - far from it. Indeed he has been out and about more than ever (just not necessarily in Cardiff Bay) and this can be attributed to the decision by Arts Council of Wales last November to offer him a Creative Wales Award. As the title of the award suggests, the purpose of these awards is to make it possible for individual artists to take time out and find space in their life to „create‟. It‟s the equivalent of what in many other industries is known as R&D - research and development. As a result of the award Michael has been travelling across the UK and Europe meeting with internationally established ensembles and conductors as he researches and observes ways of presenting new music through imaginative programming and presentation. At the same time he has been refining and expanding his conducting technique beyond his current expertise in contemporary chamber opera.
As our tour of Philip Glass‟s In the Penal Colony came to an end last autumn, we were thrilled to hear that the composer has agreed to write a new chamber opera expressly for the company, based on the Kafka novel, The Trial. The opera will go into production in 2013 - the year we celebrate our 25th anniversary. MTW‟s relationship with Glass dates back to 1989 when we gave the European premiere of The Fall of the House of Usher - a production the composer greatly admired. In a BBC Radio 3 interview prior to the opening of Penal Colony Glass reiterated his affection and respect for the company. 4
Summer / Autumn 2011 BRECON Theatr Brycheiniog Saturday 2 July 7.30pm CHELTENHAM FESTIVALS Parabola Arts Centre Thursday 7 July 8pm
Another recipient of a Creative Wales Award last November was our friend Gerald Tyler a member of the In the Penal Colony cast. In his inimitable way, Gerald outlines his plans to use the award to “behave more like the artist I strive to be and less like the producer that I have, out of necessity, become. By working alone, without deadlines and then with other artists I respect and admire for their bravery, I hope to re-acquire some of my more youthful idealism and tally it with what craft and experience I have accrued in more „mature‟ years”. We wish both Michael and Gerald a productive year and look forward to sharing with them the fruits of their labours.
Glass Connections Continue New Philip Glass Commission ...
GREEK TOUR DATES
“I‟ve enjoyed working with Music Theatre Wales,” he commented, “they are wonderful to work with and they seem to like these „odd‟ pieces of mine and do them very well”. He has described his pocket operas as “neutron bombs - small but packing a powerful punch”. We look forward to receiving the score of The Trial in a package clearly labelled „handle with care‟!
… plus a recording Watch out, too, for the first publicly released recording of In the Penal Colony made by Glass‟s own music label, Orange Mountain Music. The Music Theatre Wales Ensemble is conducted by Michael Rafferty with Omar Ebrahim as The Officer and Michael Bennett as The Visitor.
BUXTON FESTIVAL Opera House Thursday 14 & Monday 25 July 7.15pm EDINBURGH Traverse Theatre In collaboration with Scottish Opera Thursday 1 & Friday 2 September 7.30pm OXFORD Playhouse Tuesday 6 September 7.30pm BASINGSTOKE The Anvil Wednesday 21 September 7.45pm MOLD Clwyd Theatr Cymru Sunday 25 September 7.30pm ABERYSTWYTH Arts Centre Tuesday 11 October 7.30pm HUDDERSFIELD Lawrence Batley Theatre Wednesday 26 October 7.30pm NEWPORT The Riverfront Thursday 10 November 7.30pm
A Soothing Balm - and More It‟s a small phrase and it‟s frequently relegated to relatively small print, but never underestimate the importance of the words “A co-production with ...” so often to be seen on websites and print in today‟s world of the arts. Securing such a relationship often marks the transition from the dream to stage a new work or production to the reality. But what is the role of a co-producer? We caught up with Andy Eagle, Director of Theatr Brycheiniog to find out what the venue brings to the table as co-producer of Julie, For You and our forthcoming tour of Greek. “I have been at Brycheiniog since 2000 and always wanted the venue to enter into co-production work” says Andy. “At first I was only able to offer companies such as Music Theatre Wales a complimentary production week and rehearsal time from which they could launch shows. This was the case with Lynne Plowman‟s opera Gwyneth and the Green Knight. However, when Arts Council of Wales (ACW) awarded us funding specifically to be used for production investment we were also in a position to offer a cash investment”. So why support Music Theatre Wales? “New work is the lifeblood of the genre it works in” responds Andy. “Music Theatre Wales truly strive to be original, creative and push the boundaries of the artform. That, their tenacity, and the sheer bloody mindedness of the artistic team to be true to their artistic principles is something I admire greatly. I also applaud the management team. The energy they have is remarkable and a model example”. From Music Theatre Wales‟s point of view, Theatr Brycheiniog is a fabulous setting in which to launch a new production. There are few in the company who don‟t enjoy escaping to the country for the last week of rehearsals. The theatre fulfils all our technical requirements with a major added bonus - a picturesque canal-side setting against a beautiful rural backdrop. It‟s a very effective balm to the jittery tension that inevitably builds among cast and crew as the opening night approaches. Let Theatr Brycheiniog‟s special aura cast its spell on you. Join us for the opening night of Greek on Saturday 2 July. An afternoon in the hills of mid Wales followed by a pre performance meal at the theatre and then the opening night of our tour. Can‟t be bad can it? Many congratulations to Andy on his recent appointment as Chief Executive of Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. We wish him every success as he takes up his new role and hope to continue our working relationship with him there.
Carried along on a Cloud of Appreciation .... Your feedback to In the Penal Colony translated into a word cloud. Enjoy!
Mutual Appreciation Society News from some companies and organisations whose work we enjoy - and which we hope you‟ll enjoy too.
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and The Opera Group join forces Luke Bedford‟s long awaited first opera Seven Angels premieres next month at Birmingham‟s CBSO Centre (17 June) after which the The Opera Group/Birmingham Contemporary Music Group production tours to Cardiff, Glasgow, Brighton, Oxford and London culminating in a performance at the Latitude Festival. Inspired by Paradise Lost, the opera interprets the themes of John Milton‟s masterpiece bringing to it pertinent resonances for a modern audience facing up to the urgent challenges of a changing climate and ever-depleting resources. Featuring seven singers and chamber orchestra, Luke Bedford‟s music is dark but seductive, tense but lyrical, integrating both solo voices and choral textures. Further information from www.theoperagroup.co.uk www.bcmg.org.uk
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama opens its doors to all The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in our home city of Cardiff will be opening its doors to a state of the art suite of facilities this June comprising an intimate 160-seat courtyard theatre, a 420 seater recital hall and a stunning glass-walled public café bar overlooking the beautiful grounds of Bute Park. The opening season includes a residency by Welsh National Opera, a recital by the winner of the 2005 Cardiff Singer of the World Rosenblatt Recital Prize, Andrew Kennedy accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, The Opera Group/ BCMG‟s production of Luke Bedford‟s Seven Angels and an eagerly awaited visit by the eccentric but unforgettable Penguin Café.
Keeping in Touch
Andrew Kennedy (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)
Further information from www.rwcmd.ac.uk Tel: 029 2039 1391
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News from Music Theatre Wales, one of the UK's leading contemporary opera companies.