Thursday 9th & Friday 10th August 19.50 – 20.35
World’s End Opera
When Jean Rhys lost a husband she didn’t always notice straight away. Married three times, she was all but consumed by drink and self-destruction as her masterpiece Wide Sargasso Sea slowly took shape. The Trial of Jean Rhys portrays her inelegant struggle and looks into the darkness at the heart of one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary writers.
Scenes from this work in progress have appeared as part of the Royal Opera House’s Exposure programme.
This piece was developed with support from ROH2, through their composers’ and librettists’ courses in 2010-11. Short excerpts were shown at ROH Exposure in 2011, Opera Europa 2011 and Exposure:Opera in 2012. We are currently seeking offers from potential producers to take the work to full production.
The Trial of Jean Rhys is set in the condemned bungalow in Devon where Rhys spent her last years, haunted by gossiping neighbours and embittered by the literary success that came, in her words, ‘too late’. Looking back over her past as she awaits the arrival of a reporter, she puts herself on trial, niggling away at love, loneliness, success and failure, and weaving it all, finally, into the narrative of her semi-autobiographical novel, Wide Sargasso Sea. Her companion is local farmer and taxi-driver Sam Greenslade on whom she relies for meals, odd-jobs, cigarettes and whisky.
Elfyn Jones previews his opera-in progress at www.classicalsource.com
Music: Elfyn Jones
Words: Eleanor Knight
Director: Toria Banks
Design: Halla Groves-Raines
Jean Rhys/Landlady: Linda Hirst
Young Jean/Antoinette: Julia Weatherley
Stella Bowen/Gaiety Girl: Sarah Denbee
Jean Lenglet/Max Hamer: Stephan Ulberini
Lancelot Smith/Ford Madox Ford: James Williams
Sam Greenslade/Cabaret Singer: Tom McKenna
Linda Hirst (Jean Rhys). Her 40 -year career began with Monteverdi, Schutz and John Alldis Choirs in the early 70s. She was a Swingle Singer, then co-founded Electric Phoenix in 1979. Both groups toured the world leading to a hugely varied solo career – Beethoven 9 and Berio Recital in the Proms, premieres by Osborne, Weir, Holt, Muldowney, Grange etc, recordings with Pink Floyd, Ivor Cutler, Ligeti, Henze, Cage and Lachenmann and a long love affair with Pierrot Lunaire, which she will perform for Nuria Schoenberg’s 80th birthday at La Fenice in November.
Toria Banks (director) has been Resident Director at Trinity Laban since 2009, working with undergraduate and postgraduate singers on a range of projects. As a freelance director and dramaturg she has recently worked for: Told by an Idiot in Helsinki (on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’); Big Telly Theatre Company in Northern Ireland; and Theatre Hebrides in Stornoway. This summer she is returning to the Western Isles to write a new play about land reform for Rural Nations. Toria is also senior tutor on the foundation acting course at Arts Educational Schools.
Elfyn Jones (composer) has written two operas (The Nightjar, 1999 and Jacko’s Hour, 2009), both of which attracted national critical acclaim at their first performances. The Trial of Jean Rhys is his third, and has been shown in part at ROH Exposure 2011 and 2012. His work includes commissions from ENO Baylis, Opera North, WNO and Tete a Tete. www.elfynjones.org.uk
Eleanor Knight (libretto) studied drama and English at Liverpool John Moores and Lancaster Universities, and creative writing at Exeter. Her short stories have been published in various anthologies and her journalism in the national press. Cafeteria, a four-minute opera written with composer Helen Porter, was shown at this year’s ROH Exposure. As a musician she has toured with theatre and dance companies and recorded an album with the late Vivian Stanshall.
Halla Groves -Raines (designer) has an MA in Theatre Design from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and her recent credits include Set and Costume Design for Knives in Hens (Greenwich Theatre, Alma Tavern Theatre), Costume Design for Dancing at Lughnasa (Tobacco Factory) and Set and Costume Design for Time and the Conways (Circomedia). She has a BA (Hons) in Painting from Glasgow School of Art and has exhibited widely throughout the UK.