Opera Scotland

Five:15 (3)

FIVE: 15 – Operas Made in Scotland (Series Three)
Zen Story; Sublimation; The Money Man; 74? North; The Letter.

This is a third series of five quarter-hour long mini-operas teaming composers and writers with little previous experience of producing opera. After two successful groups performed only in Edinburgh and Glasgow, this was notable for travelling outside the central belt for the first time. The sequence produced a number of rewarding roles for several of the singers.

The fourth and fifth pieces were particularly successful, producing a strong sense of drama with a haunting aftertaste. The baritone and tenor roles in the bleak arctic setting were very effective. The Letter crammed an astonishing amount into a few concentrated minutes, with music reminiscent of Shostakovich, with clearly Jewish inflections, including a demanding solo role for the part of Anna. All four serious pieces produced fully three-dimensional characters. Only in the comic centrepiece did the characterisation remain comparatively shallow, but as that is already a segment from a projected hour-long piece, later development will presumably rectify that.

Premieres
First performance: Aberdeen (Elphinstone Hall), 15 May 2010.
First UK performance: As above.
First performance in Scotland: As above.
Scottish Opera premiere: As above.

 

ZEN STORY
Music: Miriama Young
Words: Alan Spence

Source
Original

Characters
Girl (soprano)
Mother (mezzo-soprano)
Father (baritone)
Hakuin (bass)

Plot Summary
A young girl finds herself pregnant. Distraught, she encounters a Zen master, who sees how she is suffering. When confronted by her parents she falsely declares him to be the father. He accepts the child until her parents recognise the truth, and reconciliation seems to occur.

 

SUBLIMATION
Music: Nick Fells
Words: Zoë Strachan

Source
Original

Characters
A Woman (soprano)
Her Son, a child (mime)
Her Sister (mezzo-soprano)
Lotis, a tree (mime)

Plot Summary
A woman is walking by an idyllic lakeside with her child and her sister. Her memories take over as she is haunted by her traumatic past and unable to separate it from the present. Her story takes acquires a mythical element as her child is left in the care of her sister.

 

THE MONEY MAN
Music: Lyell Cresswell
Words: Ron Butlin

Source
Original

Characters
Tom Masters (baritone)
Laura, his daughter (mezzo-soprano)
Steve, Tom’s assistant (tenor)
Jenna, a journalist (mezzo-soprano)

Plot Summary
This is an extract from a projected longer work, a fast-moving and witty satire. A tycoon makes vast sums by stock markets dealing, but refuses to countenance his assistant’s love for his daughter. A reporter, at the same time attracted and repelled by him, tries to ingratiate herself with his daughter, without success. As the markets crash, it is revealed that Tom has squandered his daughter’s inheritance in reckless deals, and his future looks bleak.

 

74° NORTH
Music: Paul Meallor
Electro-acoustic score: Pete Stollery
Words: Peter Davidson

Source
Original

Characters
Andrew, an environmental scientist (baritone)
Stranger/Ghost (tenor)

Plot Summary
This striking little drama is located in arctic Canada just before the onset of winter. A scientist spends his last day of the season before travelling home in examining graves of sailors from Sir John Franklin’s expedition, by which he is fascinated. He is taken aback at the arrival of a man who is in distress due to cold, hunger and loneliness. At last he concludes this must be the spirit of one of these explorers, trapped for over 150 years.

 

THE LETTER
Music: Vitaly Khodosh
Words: Bernard MacLaverty

Source
Novel Life and Fate (Chapter 18) by Vassili Grossman.

Characters
Anna Semyonovna, a Jewish eye-doctor (mezzo-soprano)
Shchukin, a Russian (bass)
Dr Sperling (baritone)
Mrs Sperling (soprano)
Epstein (baritone)
Young Man (tenor)
Epstein (baritone)
A Young Peasant Girl (mezzo-soprano)
Neighbour/Young Girl (soprano)

Plot Summary
In June 1941, the German army invades the Ukraine. It becomes clear that the Jewish community is to be persecuted, and some of the Russians take advantage of this to seize their property, while others remain sympathetic, in spite of the risk to themselves. Anna writes to her son in Moscow, to let him know that she is reconciled to her inevitable death which she will suffer along with her friends. The Jews are taken to the ghetto, surrounded by barbed wire, to prepare for their extermination.

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