I have loved the stories of Saki since I was a teenager. He was introduced to me by my mother, who, if anyone passed comment on her cooking, would reply with the line: ‘She was a good cook, as cooks go; and as cooks go she went.’ For years I was convinced of Saki’s operatic potential and, after working with William Radice on an Indian-themed children’s opera, suggested we turn our attention to Saki. Last December we met Bill Bankes-Jones at a reception and got talking, and in very short order (for an opera) Dumbfounded! was created. I would like to thank everyone who has helped bring this show about, including, of course, my mother, to whom it is dedicated.
Synopsis: ‘Egbert came into the large, dimly lit drawing-room with the air of a man who is not certain whether he is entering a dovecote or a bomb factory.’
It is a gloomy December tea-time and Egbert wants to make peace with his wife after their lunchtime quarrel; but his various approaches falter in the face of Lady Anne’s implacable resistance. Their cat, the elegant Don Tarquinio, offers his sardonic take on the situation while demonstrating an impeccable knowledge of his sinful Roman namesake. He shows deep disdain for Egbert – but a lively interest in the bullfinch, Lucretia, whose musical training extended only to a single operatic aria. Meanwhile, Egbert’s ever more desperate attempts to appease his wife meet with no success.
‘He looked at Lady Anne nervously through his glasses. To get the worst of an argument with her was no new experience. To get the worst of a monologue was a humiliating novelty.’
Can Egbert achieve a reconciliation with Lady Anne before the sly Don Tarquinio reveals the lengths to which he will go in his pursuit of a feathered dinner?
Dumbfounded! is part of a planned full-length opera using other Saki stories being developed by Bernard Hughes and William Radice.
Composer: Bernard Hughes
Librettist: William Radice, after a story by Saki
Musical Director: Tom Hammond
Director: Sebastian Armesto
Designer: Rebolina Desmond
Egbert: Edmund Connolly
Lady Anne (his wife): Cicely Yeovil
Don Tarquinio (their cat): Eamonn Mulhall
Lucretia (their bullfinch): Pamela Hay
Bernard Hughes has written for a number of leading ensembles and soloists. Recent works for voices include The Death of Balder, commissioned by the BBC Singers and broadcast on Radio 3, and the children’s opera Chincha-Chancha Cooroo, also with William Radice, for W11 Opera in 2006.
William Radice is a poet, translator and librettist. He has written more than 30 books, including 10 books of poems, and is well known for his translations of Tagore. His latest book of poems, the dancing mouse/die tanzende maus, was published in June by Hirundo Press in Hamburg.
Tom Hammond is Artistic Director of the ensemble sound collective and the Mackerras Fellow in Conducting at Trinity/Laban. In 2005 Esa-Pekka Salonen selected Tom to participate in the Sibelius International Conductors’ Competition with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Sebastian Armesto co-founded the theatre company Simple 8. He directed and co-adapted their production of Les Enfants du Paradis, and wrote and directed their most recent production The Living Unknown Soldier. He also works as an actor.
Rebolina Desmond trained at the Mountview College of Theatre Arts. Her design work includes In Flame at the Pleasance, and The Seagull at the Chelsea Theatre.
Edmund Connolly studied at Cambridge University and the GSMD. He has performed with companies including Pavilion Opera, Opera Brava, ETO and Glyndebourne Festival Opera in roles including Don Giovanni, Count Almaviva, and Dr Falke. He also sings regularly with choral societies around the UK and has performed most major oratorio repertoire as a soloist.
Cicely Yeovil is an actor and singer, whose recent appearances include creating the title role in Cousin Teresa and an acclaimed performance as Gorla in Suggestion Dances at the Caravansery. This is her first opera.
Eamonn Mulhall was born in Wexford and read French Literature and Music at University College Dublin and Education at Trinity College Dublin. He trained at the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio. He has performed with Grange Park Opera, Opera Theatre Company, Royal Albert Hall, Irish Baroque Orchestra, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the London Handel Festival.
Pamela Hay has performed roles at Houston Grand Opera, Opera Holland Park, British Youth Opera, Wigmore Hall Education and Buxton Opera House. She has given recitals at ROH Covent Garden and internationally. She regularly appears as a concert soloist and will sing Bach’s Cantata 51 in Dresden this autumn.
Stuart King (clarinet) enjoys a diverse, challenging and rewarding career that incorporates performing, teaching, animateurship and directing. Stuart is a founder member and Artistic Director of acclaimed chamber ensemble CHROMA. He has worked with many of the leading talents of his generation and thrives on innovative creative collaborations with artists from many disciplines, including most recently Brief Candles a collaboration with Rolf Hind, David Alberman, SPNM & the Richard Alston Dance Company.
Matthew Mills (piano) read Music at Christ Church, Oxford, where he won numerous prizes and graduated with first class honours. He studied Composition and Conducting at Trinity College of Music, gaining the Postgraduate Diploma with Distinction. Matthew now maintains a busy schedule of playing, conducting, composing, teaching and research.
Joy Lisney (cello) studied with Christine Livingstone and Alexander Boyarsky and is at present working with Melissa Phelps. She has appeared in concertos with Alexander Baillie and Mathias Feile and recently gave a recital with the pianist James Lisney.