Formations Masterclasses 2017

Following the successes of its previous opera masterclasses, Helios Collective is pleased to announce that Formations 2017 will feature a new and more extensive masterclass and performance programme, proudly hosted in conjunction with English National Opera.

The two masterclass operas for Formations 2017 are hunger and The Storm.

In addition to the two new commissions, Helios Collective is also proud to host two performances of the critically acclaimed Mad King Suibhne, supported by Bury Court Opera.

The Formations 2017 Programme is now available as a free ebook. Visit our downloads page to get your copy now, or just click on the image below.

Formations 2017 Programme

Five Masterclass and Performance Dates

1. Musical Performance Masterclass – Stephen Barlow, 9 November

The Musical Performance Masterclass will be led by the artistic director of Buxton Festival Opera, composer, and conductor Stephen Barlow, and it will showcase two operas: hunger by Joanna Ward (composer) and Ryan Hay (librettist); and The Storm by Lewis Coenen-Rowe (composer and librettist).

2. Composing Masterclass – Judith Weir, 10 November

The Composing Masterclass will be led by composer and Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir, and it will showcase two operas: hunger by Joanna Ward (composer) and Ryan Hay (librettist); and The Storm by Lewis Coenen-Rowe (composer and librettist).

3. Triple-Bill Opera Show, 16 November

The Triple-Bill Opera Show will showcase three operas: hunger by Joanna Ward (composer) and Ryan Hay (librettist); The Storm by Lewis Coenen-Rowe (composer and librettist); and Mad King Suibhne by Noah Mosley (composer) and Ivo Mosley (librettist). Mad King Suibhne is supported by Bury Court Opera.

4. Directing Masterclass – Daniel Kramer, 17 November

The Directing Masterclass will be led by the ENO’s artistic director Daniel Kramer, and it will showcase two operas: hunger by Joanna Ward (composer) and Ryan Hay (librettist); and The Storm by Lewis Coenen-Rowe (composer and librettist).

5. Triple-Bill Opera Show, 17 November

The Triple-Bill Opera Show will showcase three operas: hunger by Joanna Ward (composer) and Ryan Hay (librettist); The Storm by Lewis Coenen-Rowe (composer and librettist); and Mad King Suibhne by Noah Mosley (composer) and Ivo Mosley (librettist). Mad King Suibhne is supported by Bury Court Opera.

Helios Collective Management and Production Team

Ella Marchment
Artistic Director

Noah Mosley
Music Director

Robert Harm
Production Manager

Laura Furner
Production Assistant & PR Manager

Ben Pickersgill
Lighting Designer

The Operas

Two new operas will be workshopped and showcased in Formations 2017, hunger by Joanna Ward and Ryan Hay, and The Storm by Lewis Coenen-Rowe.

The Triple-Bill Opera Shows will feature both hunger and The Storm, as well as the critically acclaimed Mad King Suibhne by Noah Mosley and Ivo Mosley.

1. hunger

hunger

hunger – About the Opera

Joanna Ward and Ryan Hay’s hunger is an original operetta, inspired by Franz Kafka’s A Hunger Artist. Kafka’s story is predicated on how artists have to adapt their work for commercial and critical success – how every performance is dependent on its audience and reception – and hunger explores this process of self-editing and self-censoring in the face of criticism in the life and work of female artists.

‘The Artist’ in hunger is, like Kafka’s artist, deep into a long-term performance piece, but rather than a literal cage, our artist sequesters herself away within a semblance of family life.

When we were writing this, we read over a lot of Yuriko Saito’s work, whose ideas about the aesthetic of the everyday inform her work at the Rhode Island School of Design, but they also seem, for us, to call into question the barriers that are established between being a woman and being an artist. If the home can be an art object, how can anyone assert that a woman ought to be a homemaker instead of an artist, if those two can be one and the same? This became our Artist’s project – she strives for aesthetic beauty every day in her performance of this domestic life, and in doing so tries to defy any reductive categorisation as ‘mother’ or ‘wife’ or ‘homemaker’.

But the performance can’t continue without an audience. As her agent the Impresario explains, with public interest waning in the piece, it risks ceasing to be art at all, if nobody is there to behold it – paintings can go in a gallery; a life can’t.

The piece is concerned with the stifling of feminine voices in the creative sphere, and so the artist never speaks in the presence of others – she can be present, opinionated, human on her own, but she is subjectified, reduced, and silenced in anyone else’s presence.

The music draws on this non-naturalistic, stylised reflection of the artist’s situation, as well as Joanna’s own musical aesthetic, to result in a score filled with unsettling repetitions, expansive tonal stasis, and gradually shifting timbral effects. The lack of obvious or readily accessible musical tension adds to the cloud of uncertainty and difficulty around the power relationships depicted. Simultaneously, the musical associations which develop around each character, as well as the sometimes austere, sometimes deceptively welcoming sound-world, add to the stylisation of the piece as a whole – jarring with the extremely real and pertinent issues at hand.

There’s an easy way to break down the barriers facing women’s art and women’s perspectives: look at, and listen to, the work of women artists. Normalise the female artist, talk to her, but for god’s sake, don’t ask if her children impact on her work.

Tickets available from Ticket Source.

hunger – Creatives

Joanna Ward
Composer

Ryan Hay
Librettist

Noah Mosley
Conductor

Freya Wynn-Jones
Director

Emma Black
Assistant Director

Constance Villemot
Designer

Dan Chappell
Répétiteur

Beatrice Wallbank
Stage Manager

hunger – Cast

Eleanor Garside
The Artist (Light Soprano)

Rosie Middleton
The Impresario (Contralto)

Jezz Saint-James
Watcher 1 (Tenor)

Callum Speed
Watcher 2 (Baritone)

Geoff Williams
Watcher 3 (Bass)

hunger – Musicians

Roman Lytwyniw
Violin

Victoria Bernath
Viola

Sarah Berger
Cello

Katy Ovens
Flute/Piccolo

Joseph Shiner
Clarinet/Bass Clarinet

2. The Storm

The Storm

The Storm – About the Opera

Kate Chopin’s 1898 short story The Storm was not published until after her death. In all likelihood the narrative’s content was considered too controversial for publication to be possible at the time. In short, the story is about a woman, Calixta, who has an extramarital affair under the cover of an unexpected storm. And then… nothing happens. There are no negative repercussions, her husband doesn’t suspect anything, she feels no apparent guilt and, if anything, is rejuvenated by the experience. Such ostensible immorality, as well as the story’s frank and detailed depiction of the sexual encounter, reads like a deliberate challenge to nineteenth-century standards of morality.

However, Chopin’s story sets out to do more than simply shock. The depiction of the affair is complex and delicately balanced. The characters are not entirely satisfied with their lives, but neither are they truly unhappy. Calixta is neither seducer nor seduced. Her actions are neither condoned nor condemned. Chopin’s story seems to point out two things. Firstly, both happiness and morality are more complex and multifaceted entities than we usually admit. Secondly, contrary to narrative logic, sometimes stuff just happens, events occur in isolation and don’t lead on to anything, and that’s how life goes. Just as the storm that provides the cover for their affair cares nothing for human order or continuity, so does the narrative shape.

This operatic adaptation seeks to be as faithful as possible to Chopin’s tale, while allowing it to take on a new light through the medium of music and staging, and through the perspective of twenty-first-century audiences. The script uses a combination of Chopin’s idiosyncratic handling of the Louisiana bayou dialect – a melting pot of Deep South slang, flavoured with a liberal helping of colloquial French and her rich and highly symbolic descriptive writing. The characters mainly converse as we would expect them to, but occasionally step outside of themselves to comment on the action from the perspective of an author.

The music does not attempt to relate to the story’s time and place, but instead deals with the issue of combining the sonic portrayal of something as large and inhuman as the storm, with something as small and intimate as the characters, their emotions, and relationships. Static harmonies and frenetic textures are combined with delicate and fragile melodies, with the balance continually shifting between the two. In this way, the music aims to replicate Chopin’s literary alternation between the neutral, disinterred perspective of nature and the empathetic, sentimental perspective of her characters’ inner thoughts.

The Storm may have been defined by controversy, but it is not limited to that. Like a bolt of lightning, it shocks but also illuminates. From a modern-day perspective, it emerges as a highly perceptive moral critique, as well as a warm and generous human drama. This operatic adaptation treats Chopin’s story not simply as a historical document, but also as a tale that still demands attention today, a rumble of thunder that refuses to die away.

Tickets available from Ticket Source.

The Storm – Creatives

Lewis Coenen-Rowe
Composer and librettist

Noah Mosley
Conductor

Adam Lenson
Director

Gareth Mattey
Assistant Director

Robert Allan
Répétiteur

Beatrice Wallbank
Stage Manager

The Storm – Cast

Isabella Cheevers
Calixta (Alto)

Jolyon Loy
Bobinot (Bass)

Laura Monaghan
Bibi (Soprano)

Dominic Stewart
Alcee Laballiere (Tenor)

The Storm – Musicians

Roman Lytwyniw
Violin

Victoria Bernath
Viola

Sarah Berger
Cello

Katy Ovens
Flute/Piccolo

Joseph Shiner
Clarinet/Bass Clarinet

3. Mad King Suibhne

Mad King Suibhne

Mad King Suibhne – About the Opera

Mad King Suibhne – pronounced Sweeney – is a new opera by composer and music director Noah Mosley.

Based on an Irish poem that was probably compiled in the twelfth century, it explores what happens after King Suibhne kills his childhood friend during a battle.

Suibhne goes mad at the violence of the world and flees to a forest, where he finds some comfort in nature and discovers that he is able to withstand certain temptations. He is coaxed home by a supportive witch, the trickery of his half-brother, and the thoughts of his wife, Queen Eorann. Having returned to his kingdom, he finally accepts the need to govern the world he is faced with wisely, rather than despair at all of its imperfections.

The libretto of Mad King Suibhne brilliantly balances a fast-paced and magical world of animals, colour, and the supernatural with more serious themes, such as the difficulty of loving someone with a mental illness and the potentially destructive effects of an aggressively competitive society.

The conflict between wildness and civilisation is ongoing, but the original poem and the opera deal with an even more important topic that is still relevant to us today: our desire to make the world a better place and how hard it is to act out that desire.

Tickets available from Ticket Source.

Librettist Ivo Mosley has published a scene-by-scene guide to Mad King Suibhne on his website.

Mad King Suibhne Reviews

4 Stars
Mad King Suibhne was an impressive and at times powerful piece on a difficult subject, and it is to Noah Mosley and Ella Marchment’s credit that the audience was held spellbound for ninety minutes and applauded enthusiastically afterwards.
Planet Hugill

4 Stars
Noah Mosley’s score is varied, lively and energised: rich in instrumental colour from a small ensemble, it contains some divine upper string writing, and – these being Celtic lands – makes effective use of the harp and horn.
Opera Now

4 Stars
Mosley, clearly has a gift for melody. Ella Marchment’s production, in Holly Pigott’s simple but atmospheric and versatile decor, had a lot of ground – and some water and air – to cover, but it did so fluently, inventively and with both pathos and humour.
Opera Magazine

Mad King Suibhne is supported by Bury Court Opera

Mad King Suibhne – Creatives

Noah Mosley
Composer and conductor

Ivo Mosley
Librettist

Ella Marchment
Director

Judith Thei
Assistant Director

Suzanne Lemeuix
Producer

Holly Pigott
Designer

Sarah Louise Kristiansen
Movement Director

Ughetta Pratesi
Movement Director

Ben Pickersgill
Lighting Designer

Robert Harm
Production Manager

Laurie O’Brien
Répétiteur

Mad King Suibhne – Cast

Ricardo Panela
Suibhne

Iúnó Connolly
Woman at Well

Kieran White
Guaire

Henry Grant Kerswell
Lynschecan

Jennifer Parker
Witch

Isolde Roxby
Eorann

Ozlem Celik
Stag

Katie Sazanova
Blackbird

Yara Zeitoun
Anna Mclachlan
Madeleine Joyce
Kathleen Greene
Charlotte North
Olivia Martin
Ensemble

Mad King Suibhne – Musicians

Makoto Nakata
Violin 1

Roman Lytwyniw
Violin 2

Victoria Bernath
Viola

Sarah Berger
Cello

Giuseppe Cali
Double Bass

Katie Sazanova
Flute

Ozlem Celik
Clarinet/Bass Clarinet

Charlie Ransley
Horn

Sinead Frost
Bassoon

Zita Silva
Harp

Helios Collective’s Supporters

Formations 2017 is kindly supported by…

PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund

Opera Awards Foundation

ENO

Helios Collective Partners and Supporters

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