Audio extract: Hiro Reflects

In a final audio extract from Tokaido Road, the elderly painter, Hiroshige  reflects, to a ghostly backdrop of harmonics, on the journey he took along the Road all those years ago; how he mourned his lover, the black-haired Kikuyo, and the bleakness of Kanbara.

photo 10In this extract, Hiro is played by Jeremy Huw Williams.

The London premiere of the opera is on Wednesday 25 February at the Barbican’s Milton Court Theatre: details here.

Photo: © Greg Trezise

Audio extract: Spring Arrives

To whet your appetite for the forthcoming London premiere of Tokaido Road on 25 February (details here), here’s Scene II from the opera; newly-established in a tea-house, Mariko sings a gentle lullaby to her baby.

In rehearsal: Caryl Hughes as Mariko.

In rehearsal: Caryl Hughes as Mariko.

In this extract, Mariko is sung by mezzo-soprano Caryl Hughes. Another extract tomorrow…

Rehearsal photo: © Greg Trezise

Poetry into opera: Under Milk Wood

Fascinating interview here with composer John Metcalf in The Independent, in which he talks to Jessica Duchen about turning Dylan Thomas’ inventive, dazzling fairy-tale-cum-radio-play Under Milk Wood into an opera.

Masterpiece

Masterpiece

Bursting with linguistic invention beyond its diminutive published stature, Thomas’ evocative and magical piece often references music; Organ Morgan, devoted to Bach and Palestrina, his wife eternally proclaiming ‘Oh, I’m a martyr to music;’ the music of the spheres heard over the wood, ‘perturbation and music in Coronation Street;’ PC Attila Rees playing cadenzas on his truncheon.

Confronted by the no doubt daunting task of making an opera out of something which each listener owns as a work part radio-play, part drama, revealingly Metcalf says

In general, whenever I got stuck during the composition process, I found that there was one solution: go back to the Thomas.

As with Tokaido Road, turning a poem into an opera represents a challenge for the composer as well as the poet (read Nancy Gaffield’s take on working with composer Nicola LeFanu on turning her poetry-cycle into the opera here). Thomas’ richly inventive language sways and blossoms with a music all of its own; and clothing this in a musical language for the opera would bear its own burdens, not least for something so well-loved in its original form; Metcalf comments that his score looks ‘to pick out the dislocated, alienated quality of the town and its people. But at the same time, my work is very lyrical.’

A fascinating prospect in store; between the 3 to 5 April, Swansea’s Taliesin Arts Centre might just be the place to be…