Thursday 1st August & Friday 2nd August, 2013
Pete Wyer and Clarke Melville
This sixties-Barbados, upbeat, lyrical opera is the love story of Sonia, a mercurial Barbadian, and Edward, an English aristocrat, trapped in their nightmarish history of enslaver and enslaved. The musicality of the Barbadian language vocalises, and English cadences transform a divisive past into a shared future for present-day British-Barbadian culture. Supported by Arts Council England.
LA BELLE DE LA BÊTE was born in 2007, to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. It falls within my Bimshire Cycle – a series of librettos inspired by British-‐Barbadian history. My childhood home overlooked a sugar plantation; thus, I grew up at an interface between England and Barbados. The cane arrows shimmered beautifully, their roots buried in a bestial past. Could bête birth belle?
Act 1. 1962, Barbados. Canecutters down their cutlasses for lunch, and recite the Angelus as a church bell strikes noon. Easter finds Sonia, her brother Zeek, and family friend Jackman happily flying their kites, when a red kite slashes Sonia’s. It lands at the feet of Edward Walker, Earl of Gawthrup, but Lady Walker, his mother, bustles in with Edward’s best friend Henry, trailing a red kite, anddampens the immediate chemistry felt between Edward and Sonia. Sonia accuses Henry of damaging her kite, but hurriedly exits when she remembers that her father has declared the plantation house forbidden territory. Henry searches for Sonia to apologise, but runs into Zeek and Jackman. Jackman’s jealousy is roused at news that Henry has repaired the kite but Zeek fears for the missing Sonia. By the time Xmas rolls around, Terencia discovers her daughter’s crush and takes her to the slave burial ground as a wake-‐up call only to run into Edward and his mother. Terencia is determined that Sonia will resume her role as a traditional healer in the family. Gerald, however, foresees a modern future for his daughter – far removed from herb-‐gathering. Terencia fears that the past will be forgotten and summons her ancestors for help.
Music: Pete M Wyer
Words: Clarke Melville
Music Director: Tom Blunt
Henry Marlborough/Canecutter/Chorus: Alistair Brookshaw
Zeek Braithwaite/Gerald Braithwaite/Canecutter/Chorus: Matthew Duncan
Jackman Mayers/Canecutter/Chorus: Adam Green
Sonia Brathwaite/Canecutter/Chorus: Gweneth-‐Ann Jeffers
Terencia Brathwaite/Canecutter/Chorus: Hyacinth Nicholls
Lady Walker/Canecutter/Chorus: Claire Platt
Edwards Walker, Earl of Gawthrup/Canecutter/Chorus: Ben Thapa
Pete M Wyer is a composer who is drawn to storytelling. He has written eight opera/music-‐theatre works and three staged song-‐cycles. He has created works for the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Juilliard Orchestra, along with many others, and is the recipient of a number of international awards and fellowships.
Clarke Melville. Graduated Yale (with a Doctorate in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism), Leeds, and UWI Barbados. First libretto: Fire Work (commissioned by Glyndebourne). Amen Alley, a religious musical, and children’s opera Star Jazz followed. Attached to the National Theatre Studio, as Librettist, in 2009. Currently writing an Oratorio, The St Mary Magdalene Passion, for composer Will Todd.
Tom Blunt studied at Cambridge University and the Royal College of Music. He has conducted for Glyndebourne on Tour, Welsh National Opera, Opéra National du Rhin, Buxton Festival, ROH2, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, and Coro da Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo.
Alistair Brookshaw. Theatre credits include: Leo Frank Parade (Southwark Playhouse, Jerusalem Theatre), Vocalist Strictly Gershwin (Royal Albert Hall), Volodya Bed and Sofa (Finborough), Vocalist Shoes (Sadler’s Wells); Blo-‐Hy Hot Mikado (Watermill), Perkins/Eddie (understudy) Blood Brothers (Phoenix Theatre), Young Nazi Cabaret (Lyric Theatre), Prince Jean-‐Pierre Through the Door (Trafalgar Studios), Handsome Stranger Mathilde (Gielgud Theatre), and Soloist For the Public Good (London Coliseum).
Matthew Duncan trained at RNCM. Roles include: Bourgeois Fortunio (Grange Park Opera/Buxton Opera Festival), Baron La Traviata (Opera UK/Merry Opera at Petaling Jaya Live Arts Theatre Kuala Lumpur), Schaunard La Bohème (Opera Up Close), Gugliemo Così fan tutte (Jackdaws Opera). Mendelssohn’s Elijah (LGMC, Cadogan Hall), Bach’s Cantata No. 82 (Festival du Vigan).
Adam Green studied at St John’s College (Cambridge), RAM, and the National Opera Studio. Credits include: Belcore The Elixir of Love (ENO), Arbace Idomeneo (ENO), Aeneas Dido and Aeneas (ENO, Opéra de Lille, Grand Theatre d’Aix en Provence), Title role The Barber of Seville (WNO), Il Conte Le nozze di Figaro (Musique-‐Cordiale Festival, Iford Festival).
Gweneth-‐Ann Jeffers studied at the University of Exeter, Goldsmith’s College and the GSMD. She was a Vilar Young Artist at the Royal Opera House, and has represented England at Cardiff Singer of the World. Her operatic roles include: Aida, Senta, Leonora La forza del destino, La Wally and Santuzza. She is noted as an exponent of the works of Messiaen.
In the early stages of her career, Hyacinth Nicholls was a young Artist in the Royal Opera House’s Garden Venture programme. She made her opera debut at Glyndebourne, in 1986, and has performed with the Festival and Touring Company on numerous occasions. She is an experienced performer of contemporary works,and has enjoyed success across the UK, and abroad.
Claire Platt trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Theatre credits include: Betty The Screams of
Kitty Genovese (Tête à Tête, Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Zandra/Irene/Mary Jerry Springer: The Opera (National Theatre, Cambridge Theatre, BBC), and Mrs Bixby Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Theatre Royal, Haymarket). www.claireplatt.co.uk
Ben Thapa studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Royal College of Music and the Wales International Academy of Voice (with Dennis O’Neill). Past roles include: Tamino, Florestan, Kudrajs, Max Der Freischütz, Dick Johnson, and The President Mittwoch aus Licht (BBC Proms). Ben is in demand as an oratorio and concert soloist.