‘Anything Money Can Buy’ was commissioned by the Opera Group in collaboration with Opera Genesis and Selfridges. As the performance was to take place in Selfridges Department store, myself and Alasdair came up with the idea of using the performance space as the basis for the piece i.e. shopping, handbags and very rich footballers with their WAGs! ‘My Friend Annie’ had quite a different genesis as the idea of a music theatre piece based on the subject of anorexia was very personal to me. I went in search of a librettist who needed to be both knowledgeable and sympathetic about the subject area…I found Lavinia at a poetry meeting, and the collaboration began. ‘My Friend Annie’ was also the culmination of my aim in increasing awareness of eating disorders. Having given talks to teenage girls in Staffordshire Schools, I went on to organise a charity concert raising money for Beat (Eating Disorders Charity), with a programme of new and exciting music played by soloists from the RNCM alongside the premiere of ‘My Friend Annie’.
‘Anything Money Can Buy’ is a short but certainly not sweet tale of a footballer and his wife. Dean, the extremely wealthy sportsman,has a rather shallow approach to life where as Chloe is quite simply not your everyday WAG. She does not want expensive possessions or endless amounts of money, but desperately wishes for a relationship full of love and adoration without the need for flamboyant purchases to prove their love. With the deterioration of their loving bonds we see how Dean finds a solution to his sorrows in the most shallow of ways. Shopping!!
‘My Friend Annie’ is a 3 movement music theatre work depicting the stream of conscience, emotions and actions of an anorexic girl. The first movement shows the protagonist’s ever changing mood alongside the irrational fears and pleasures that anorexia can cause. We also see the character as anorexia itself, thus portraying the devastating control that the eating disorder has over its subject. It becomes the sufferer’s second self. The ensemble support the emotional changes, and assist in the creation of instrumental worlds depicting emptiness, aggression, stillness, paranoia and ecstatic happiness.
In the second movement, the young girl speaks as her family members; her father, mother and brother, displaying their emotions and opinions about her illness. She then becomes exasperated with their comments leading her into a defensive outcry against them. In the second half of this movement, the destructive object that is the mirror is introduced. The decline of the characters mental stability is portrayed through her irrational emotions when looking at the distorted view of what she sees as her body. The bass clarinet acts as the father, the flute as the mother and the saxophone as the brother. The continuous marimba accompaniment is a depiction of the ever under-lying emotional tension that anorexia causes.
The final movement shows the destruction that anorexia has had on the protagonist’s character. We see her lack of feeling and care for existence, and the disintegration of her own self. The outburst within this movement shows the anger that is caused by the illness anorexia, as the protagonist begins to feel like she no longer belongs in her own body. In the final moments of the piece the ensemble cover the vocalist’s words, “My absence.” This is literally illustrating her absence and lack of being as the surrounding instrumental forces (mental tensions) finally override her ability to keep going.
My Friend Annie”
Composed by Laura Bowler
Libretto by Lavinia (Moxy) Casimir
Mezzo-soprano- Laura Bowler
“Anything Money Can Buy”
Composed by Laura Bowler
Libretto by Alasdair Middleton
Mezzo-soprano- Louise Booker
Tenor- David Douglas
Louise Booker has just completed her third undergraduate year at the RNCM, studying under the tuition of Peter Wilson. In her second year, she played Sepp in The Cunning Little Vixen, joined the RNCM chorus in Mozart Requiem at the Bridgewater hall under Sir Colin Davis and was also in the chorus for RNCM’s production of Eugene Onegin.
Laura Bowler has just completed her undergraduate composition studies at the RNCM under Adam Gorb. She will be continuing her studies at Masters level at the Royal Academy of Music with support from the RVW Trust. Laura has also spent time studying at
the Sibelius Academy in Finland. She also studies singing with Sandra Dugdale.
David Douglas was born in Ayrshire, Scotland and having completed his studies at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama is now a student at the Royal Northern College of Music. He enjoys a busy and varied career as a recitalist, opera performer and soloist. Most recently David has performed as a soloist with Naional Youth Choir of Scotland and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Upcoming engagments include solo performances with Manchester Camerata and others.
Lavinia Murray (aka Moxy Casimir or any combination of the two names) is a writer, performer, hypnotist and creator of cake-taxidermy hybrids. Most recently part of The Dead That Never Lived, Monkfish Productions; Manchester Royal Exchange’s Blue 6 with her headlining show The Cyberpunk Version Of My Life, she has had around 30 radio plays produced for BBC Radios 3 and 4, a clutch of stage plays some of which have toured internationally (germany, France, Australia), and a few television docu- dramas. She is currently writing childrens’ novels. She is a pataphysician by temperament and disinclination and is learning BSL so he can create an opera ‘sung’ entirely in BSL, alongside a BSL ventriloquism act.
Alasdair Middleton – Alasdair Middleton’s Work in Opera includes:The Adventures of Pinnochio, The Enchanted Pig, An Old Way To Pay New Debts, The Hackney Chronicles and On Spitalfields with Jonathan Dove. The World Was All Before Them and On London Fields with Matthew King. A Bird In Your Ear with David Bruce and The Feathered Friend with Helen Chadwick.
Ewa Strusinska is a Junior Fellow in Conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. In 2007, winning 4th prize, she became one of three finalists in the Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition in Bamberg. This year Ewa has been appointed assistant conductor of the Hallé Orchestra.