Thursday 1st August & Friday 2nd August
SOON started out as a narrative poem about a voyage. Writer Alba Arikha was stranded on the Eurostar, between London and Paris. It sparked her imagination, and her writing. When her husband – composer Tom Smail – read it, he said that he could hear the music in the words. The opera SOON was born. It is their first collaboration – the story of a journey through time, place and memory.
An hour outside Paris, a train comes to an unscheduled stop. As the other passengers bicker, become restless, confide, flirt, argue and dream, the narrator remembers: lovers, childhood, marriage, divorce, hardship, and death. As she reminisces, her mind wanders. She is twenty years old, on a street in Paris. Frédéric Chopin interrupts her thoughts. He isn’t well; neither is the painter Modigliani, who asks the narrator to sit for him, one day in 1917. A child begins to shout. The heat on the train becomes oppressive. Darkness looms. Threatens. Retreats. It is a sea of flowing, swelling harmonious sounds and whispering echoes. The boundaries of self are dissolved by imagination and memory, until the journey resumes and a life suddenly ends.
Tom Smail has set words to music many times. In his most recent work, a setting of Samuel Beckett’s last poem, ‘What is the word’, he created a powerful dialogue between words and music.
Under the baton of rising star Carlos de Cueto, and with a first rate cast of performers, SOON is an equally unforgettable voyage, which begins “an hour outside of Paris/pale yellow flatlands/and raindrops falling/tentatively on the window/facing a forgotten road”.
Music: Tom Smail
Words: Alba Arikha
Director: Rosalind Parker
Designer: Tarka Kings
Visual Effects: Ed Giles
Costume Designer: Morgan Veazy
Sound Design: Lex Kosanke
Music Director: Carlos del Cueto
Soprano: Helen-Jane Howells
Mezzo: Kate Symonds-Joy
Tenor: Matt Long
Baritone: George Humphreys
Recorded Narration: Natascha McElhone
Flute: Samantha Pearce
Clarinet: Marie Lloyd
Bassoon: Simon Chiswell
Trombone: William Brown
Violin: Sophie Rosa, Elizabeth Wexler
Viola: Robert Ames
Cello: Vanessa Lucas-Smith
Bass: Caroline Harding
Tom Smail is a composer of orchestral, chamber and choral music. Recent performers include the City of London Sinfonia and English Touring Opera. His work is regularly performed by the Gaudier Ensemble and Allegri Quartet. Upcoming events include the Cerne Abbas Festival and a theatre project with actor Robert Bathurst.
Alba Arikha has published a novel, Muse, and a collection of short stories, Walking on Ice, both by Macmillan. In 2011, Quartet Books published her memoir, Major/Minor. Soon (a narrative poem) will be published by CB Editions in September. Alba is also a singer/songwriter of French songs.
Rosalind Parker’s directing credits include: The Hakawatiyyah’on (as Artistic Director, Ulfah Productions), which toured the UK, Copenhagen and Kosovo, La Traviata (Go Opera!), Don Giovanni (Sinfonia D’Amici) and La bohème (as Assistant Director, WNO). She is currently Assistant Director on Complicite’s Lionboy, and Vocal Coach for Little Bulb Theatre.
Tarka Kings is a visual artist who lives and works in London. She has just completed Diana and Actaeon, two large wall drawings in situ at Chatsworth. Her work is held in many collections, including the Maggie’s centre Rem Koolhaas building. Her next show will be in Spring 2014, at the Faggionato Gallery in London.
London-‐based digital artist, Ed Giles has offered his post-‐production expertise to a number of films and projects over the years. His success in realising the creative vision of many artists and directors has led him to, recently, win the Lab Film Festival ‘Best Animation’ award, for his contribution to the short film Zero.
Lex Kosanke is a sound designer and composer in training at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Through his work he explores the use of sound as a living, breathing entity, embracing and forming a part of various performance contexts in the UK and his native Germany.
Mexican conductor Carlos del Cueto is Assistant Conductor at English Touring Opera, a BBC Performing Arts Fellow, and Junior Fellow in Conducting at the RNCM. He has conducted The Hallé, the Manchester Camerata, the London Sinfonietta, and the New Music Players, as well as many fully staged operas from Monteverdi to contemporary works.
British soprano Helen-‐Jane Howells performs baroque, classical and contemporary repertoire regularly, appearing with specialist ensembles and at festivals in the UK, Europe and Scandinavia. She has given a number of world premieres. Past opera engagements include: Glyndebourne, Opéra Comique, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Music Theatre Wales.
Kate Symonds-‐Joy (Cambridge University, Royal Academy Opera) has performed Ravel’s Chansons Madecasses (Purcell Room), Rutter’s Feel the Spirit (Barbican), Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Cadogan Hall), Giles Swayne’s Stabat Mater (NAXOS), Berio’s Folk Songs (Psappha Ensemble), Handel’s Messiah (Bordeaux Opera), a recital at Wigmore Hall, and Verdi’s Requiem (Royal Albert Hall). www.katesymonds-‐joy.com
Matthew Long studied music at the University of York and the Royal College of Music. His most recent project has been a solo disc of British folk music and English song – a project he worked on with the LPO and accompanist, Malcolm Martineau, at Abbey Road studios. www.matthew-‐long.co.uk
George Humphreys studied at St John’s College (Cambridge), the Royal Academy of Music, and the International Opernstudio (Zürich). He has performed widely on both concert and opera stages, and is a prolific exponent of contemporary music. Recent performances include: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King, and Sciarrino’s Luci mie traditrici.
Acclaimed Actress Natascha McElhone has starred in Surviving Picasso (opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins), The Truman Show, Alan J. Pakula’s The Devil’s Own, Ronin, and Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. She currently stars in Californication (opposite David Duchovny), and shared the title role with Vanessa Redgrave in Mrs Dalloway. She has just completed filming The Sea (starring Rufus Sewell, Ciaran Hinds and Charlotte Rampling).