Through Wood’ was developed in Leeds via Opera North’s ‘Resonance’ programme – a rolling series of artist residencies and performance projects. It began with Joe’s research into the image of the violin in folk mythologies across the world and Alasdair’s interest in the darker side of the traditional folk story. Tête a Tête’s festival is the perfect context for this piece.




Lean your ear to the earth, my dear.

Lean and listen, my love,

As I play my way to Hell, my dear,

While you lean and listen above.


A woven tapestry of European folk tales in which the violin is a central character – a violin that compels feet to dance, a violin made from the bones and hair of a lost lover – all life is here, and all told ‘through wood’. The setting is a violin-maker’s studio somewhere in central Europe, where somebody, you perhaps, has come to buy a violin.

Composer: Joe Townsend

Librettist: Alasdair Middleton


Joe Townsend, Helen Chadwick, Simon Allen, Matthew Sharp and Josh Moran.


Joe Townsend has worked extensively in theatre and live music as composer, arranger and musician. Last year he wrote the music for the National Theatre’s small-scale tour of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and for The Globe’s new production of Jack Shepherd’s ‘Holding Fire!’. He has worked with artists as diverse as Laurie Anderson and the LPO, and as a musician has travelled from the Appalachian Mountains to the far reaches of Eastern Europe. In 2006 he worked with Opera North and the photo-journalist Dominick Tyler to create ‘Foaie Verde’, a musical journey across Romania, which brought together a Transylvanian vocalist, a classical ensemble from the opera orchestra, and specialist guest musicians.


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.


Helen Chadwick has written over 200 songs, mainly for unaccompanied voices. She has made six solo albums and several with other artists. She composes for radio, theatre and opera and creates song theatre performances, both solo and with her group. As a singer she has worked with Meredith Monk and Orlando Gough and for the National Theatre. Recently she created/composed and sang in Dalston Songs and The Singing Circle, both commissioned by the Royal Opera House.


Simon Allen’s recent film and theatre composition includes multi award winning film Sea Change (winner of the new Jerwood Moving Image Prize) and work for Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre. Producer for the forthcoming Naim label release Under Ubi’s Tree. He is currently working on a large-scale audiovisual work Lucretius.


Matthew Sharp has performed worldwide as solo cellist, singer and theatre performer. He combines core, ‘classical’ activities – appearances with the RPO, LPO, Ural Philharmonic, Opera North (Papageno), at the Young Vic and National Theatre Studio, recordings for Sony, Naxos and Avie – with a uniquely pioneering outlook both within music and across disciplines – world premieres by major composers, projects with musicians at the forefront of jazz, electronic, rock and world music and cross-disciplinary collaborations with leading artists.


Josh Moran has worked extensively in film, theatre and television. He has performed in two Northern Broadside’s productions as well as appearing in Shameless, The Street and Emmerdale. He lives in Manchester.


Opera North is the national opera company for the north of England. Based in Leeds, the Company tours to the Lowry, Newcastle, Nottingham, Belfast and London, as well as making regular appearances at festivals across Europe. In addition to its nine mainstage opera productions each year, the Company has developed an acclaimed body of small and medium-scale projects, often produced in collaboration with partner organisations, including the RSC, Manchester International Festival and Leeds International Film Festival.