Considering how challenging it has been recently to get new work off the ground, we went back to our Festival Alumni from the last few years to tell us what they are up to at the moment, how they are keeping up their creative momentum in 2022, and how you can find out more.
A wee bits of news:
Premiere of my new piece ‘Anti-Music’ on the 17th January at the Cankar Hall in Slovenia, as part of being composer-in-residence for the Ljubljana-based .abeceda [new music ensemble].
Premiere of a new opera, Hareflight, performed by Niki Zohdi and Jenni Hogan at the Guildhall in Leicester as part of UKNA City Takeover 2022 on the 25th February.
Forthcoming release of RUNE as a live album on Métier.
Alexa Dexa (Be A Doll, 2019)
Bewitch Yourself is Alexa Dexa’s new virtual and interactive electroacoustic toy opera for singular/small audience guided through a ritual of self-bewitchment. Call in the resources you need to guide your way forward as we co-craft a songspell that holds space for your infinite possibility. Come knowing what you’d like to be resourced around or select a resource-based oracle card from Alexa’s self-published Sacrosanct Oracle//Composition Deck to share some insight. Bewitch Yourself, manifesting transformation through deep listening, while Alexa casts your songspell with vocals, an orchestra of toy instruments, and live electronic processing in MaxMSP. Join in the songspell casting, if you feel so called, with any mechanism for generating sound and a connection to experimentation and play. Appointments to Bewitch Yourself with Alexa Dexa are available now and into the future at www.alexadexa.com/bewitch-yourself.
Ana Inés Jabares-Pita (A&E, 2020)
I will be designing The Wreckers at Glyndebourne.
Although I was not composing opera in these months, I was still working in the world of new operas.
I recently took part in two new operatic productions as a répétiteur. The first one is “My Beloved”, a pasticcio of music by Puccini, devised and written by David Quah. The other one is “Kungfood”, an original Cantonese comic opera composed by Hing-yan Chan. Henry Ngan and Michael CT Lam, who have taken part in Tête à Tête in past years, sang main roles in those productions respectively: Henry Ngan (Turandot Reimagined (2015) sang the role of Puccini in My Beloved; Michael CT Lam (Buddha and the Monkey King (2020)/The Monk of the River(2011) sang the role of Ah Q in Kungfood. My Beloved has been successfully premiered in December. The performance of Kungfood, unfortunately, has been canceled due to the rising cases of Covid. But it has been recorded professionally. There may be a broadcast coming up.
In addition, my operas “Buddha and the Monkey King”(2020) and “The Monk of the River” (2021) for the Tête à Tête: the Opera Festival have been shown again as part of The Arc Project Online Festival in December 2021.
I have a fun harp project going on at the moment. It’s open to all harpists, all levels.
Other than that, a large-scale choir and orchestra work commissioned by Orchestre national de Metz together with the amatuer choirs of INECC Lorraine and Luxembourg. More about that in my newsletter too http://www.catherinekontz.com/newsletter/
And Wou d’Uelzecht, a new binaural soundwalk created with S.L. Grange for the Esch22 European Capital of Culture, will launch at the end of April. Here I talk about it a bit. It’s fun to follow another river after Fleet Footing, which premiered at TaT was such a success.
Carole Hayman (The Hive, 2020, 2017, 2016)
The Hive continues to go well.
In the meantime, I have created and written a new opera, The Rotters’ Opera, which couldn’t be more different! It’s a street satire set at a corrupt 1880 election in the seaside town of Deal, Kent. We had AC funding last year for a workshop and presentation – and are currently searching for finance to further develop libretto, score and performances.
Darren Berry (The Crocodile of Old Kang Pow, 2021, 2020)
The Crocodile of Old Kang Pow will be performed with full orchestra at a secret festival with over 10,000 attendees this year! It will be performed for three nights in its own Roman amphitheatre, replete with a 54 piece symphonic orchestra. We’re in discussions about on stage holograms and are negotiating full cast and full chorus. Julia Minzter (Bread & Circuses ) is directing.
Dominic Matthews (Tiresias 2.0, 2020)
The biggest, and most exciting news on my end is that Tiresias 2.0 has received Arts Council England Funding for the research and development phase! Hopefully, we will have a final performance of the work in Autumn!
For anyone who is interested in keeping up with the project, there will be two open workshops, one at Manchester Central Library on the 28th March and one at Stoller Hall, Manchester on the 19th April.
1. I’ve seen a draft cut of Last Party on Earth. It’s looking good, and although it subverts the genre of opera film, it works! Out soon, hopefully…
2. I’m writing a piece for Kennet Opera called Swellfellow the Tyrant which is based on a play by Shelley. Slavery and oppression, sleaze and corruption – what’s new? Animal Farm meets G&S. (November 2022)
3. Norman Welch is preparing a script about a Pope, Angel, Demon and Fireman. Hopefully for TaT this year.
Eleanor Benson (Bread and Circuses, 2020)
In July 2020 I produced the world premiere of The Fulfilment of Ill-Conceived Designs : an epic, darkly-comic chamber opera by young composer Luciano Williamson.
This new opera was originally written especially for the student composition festival: Atmospheres 2020 at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. Whilst this was unable to take place, I present our revised, illustrated radio-opera, where colourful, modern illustration meets a colourful, energetic musical score.
Luciano and I collaborated with over 30 young instrumentalists, vocalists, 3 illustrators, designers and production crew (mostly students and graduates from Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama) to bring this piece to life – recording and mastering a 23-piece orchestra remotely.
CONTAINS SEXUAL CONTENT, STRONG LANGUAGE, BLOODY VIOLENCE, INFERTILITY, SUICIDE, MATURE THEMES. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR YOUNGER AUDIENCES.
I passed my PhD Viva with minor corrections. About to put them in over the next day or so. Other than that, fairly quiet on the opera composition front except to say that I’m still hoping to bring the Trilobite back in a live version in the summer. Sonopera@CIC is making big strides in music education in the South West – we’re doing a project called Creativity through Music funded by Plymouth University and Devon Music Education Hub, presenting our work in a Real Ideas Organisation webinar in March, and presenting live at the South West Peninsula Music Education Conference in May.
Currently Ergo Phizmiz is working on animated set designs for “The Rake’s Progress” at the Royal Academy of Music, and Gounod’s “Romeo & Juliette” at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. They are also creating a new autobiographical radioplay for WDR, Germany “The Red Hot Shoes”, and a continuing series of collaborations with French puppet company Les Antliaclastes. Concurrent with all this, Ergo is developing the opera “Adapting Don Quixote” as a practice-based PhD at the University of Bristol.
Georgia Barnes (A Time of Empty Tales, 2020)
The Royal Opera has commissioned several female composers and librettist to write micro-operas in St Pancras station as part of the Europalia festival and in celebration of International Women’s Day on the 8th of March. We are working with the Jette Parker Young Artists and the Casco Phil to create operas based on real life stories submitted by members of the public. It has been an inspiring project to work on so far, particularly being able to work with several creatives from Tête à Tête who I met through the 2020 festival.
Julia Mintzer (Bread and Circuses, 2020)
I’ve got some fun stuff coming up, thanks for asking. Lots of new and new(ish) music.
I’m currently singing the title role in Tobias Picker’s opera Therese Raquin at Theater an der Wien.
In March I’m directing a festival of 20th and 21st century American Opera at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp.
Feb 4 is the showcase for this gorgeous new family show for orchestra and animation, Zal and the Phoenix. We’ll be touring in the autumn.
Laura Reid (Song of Isis, 2020)
I am currently working on a pop up opera for Bass voice and violin, with librettist Oge Nwosu. A collaboration for members of the Jeette Parker Young Artists scheme with Casco Phil. Fingers crossed it will be performed at St Pancras Station 8th March.
I have been working on sound walks using geolocated software to engage the public with my music open mobile phones. I collaborated with National Trust ion this Dynamic Dunescpes project in Studland and co-created a walk raising sand dunes awareness and ecological issues along with music and interviews. Begun working with Swanage Pier on a similar project and also currently working on a new project with “Seeking Refuge”.
Obviously, I’m still at Tête à Tête. But alongside that, I’m currently on a Snape Maltings residency to develop Come Bargain With Uncanny Things after its Work In Progress sharing at Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2021! Hopefully, it’ll return this October. I’m also still publishing games, and have just had my first publication in an actual literary journal.
Good luck to everyone for the year ahead – read on for more fantastic news from some wonderful artists.
Since the success of Timeless Figure in 2020 (and Mary’s Hand in 2018) Martin Bussey has continued to explore larger scale works with varied degrees of staging. A Brother Abroad, exploring the life of 14th century bishop Peter of Corbavia was successfully premiered in June 2021 at the Pinner Festival which commissioned it, brilliantly portrayed by Marcus Farnsworth. It receives its next performance at the Ludlow English Song Weekend in April 2022.
A new semi-staged work, Shropshire Lass has just been finished. This is for soprano Holly Teague (herself from the county!) and guitarist Michael Matthews and explores the poetry of Mary Webb. A new work commissioned for the July 2022 St Marylebone Festival explores the Dickens characters portrayed in the mural on the corner of Devonshire Terrace by the church, all from novels Dickens wrote when living there.
Meanwhile songs and choral music continue to receive many performances. The Windhover, staged for Baritone and violin, was live-streamed from Wigmore Hall in May 2021 and appears at Lake District Summer Music in August 2022. And lurking in the background is a planned stage work based on the character of Mr Dick in David Copperfield, who may have to wait for 2023!
Is currently on a residency in Catalunya, Spain!
Voice(less) will be returning in its finished form on the 27th January with Iklectik – you can get your tickets here for this exploration of voicelessness in various forms.
Sarah Sarhandi & Vincent Katz (While There’s Light, 2021)
Given a shot of confidence in the form of a generous contribution to our Tete à Tete performance, we are now looking into doing a performance/fundraiser in New York City.
Sophia Chapadjiev (Minutes to Midnight, 2020)
Librettist Sophia Chapadjiev (Minutes to Midnight, TaT 2020), along with composer Sarah Lianne Lewis, are currently working on a commission from Lost & Found, a collaboration between Royal Opera House, Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, Casco Phil, Europalia and Curated Place. Their new micro-opera, The Parting Place, will be performed at St. Pancras (pandemic-allowing) on March 8, 2022.
Susie Self (HER BODY, 2021)
After performing HER BODY at the Festival last year (now available via Composers Edition) I am happy to report that I was invited by Crispin Ward, head of conducting at Chichester Conservatoire to conduct an 8’ extract from the opera for string orchestra and marimba. This opportunity was entirely obtained through Twitter so it is well worth keeping those tweets going!
This concert was so successful that Crispin is keen to further collaborate, we are currently in discussions about a larger project.
Also as a result of having the video of the performance of HER BODY on the TàT website I got a booking from Simon Daykin, Artistic Director of The Maltings theatre in Wells Next the Sea, Norfolk to perform HER BODY alongside a first half of my songs on 3rd March 2022 at 7.30pm.
Next month I take up a composing residency at Aldeburgh which I won while I was composing HER BODY. MY new work : ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ is an investigation into the hallucinatory visions of the fourteenth century anchorite, Julian of Norwich when she had a life threatening illness accompanied by high fever. This is related to the extremis of patients in intensive care with Covid.