Philip Venables presents Laura Sings at Manchester Opera Project Festival One - image courtesy Harald Hoffmann

Previewed: Festival One – three days of operas

Manchester Opera Project, who are dedicated to commissioning and developing new opera, present their brand new Festival One over the next few days.

Festival One is the first festival of operatic works specifically commissioned for Manchester by a Manchester organization.

The three day festival includes three premieres of Manchester Opera Project commissioned monodramas by composers Ailís Ní Riaín, Michael Rose and Philip Venables.  Festival One will also feature readings of new operas in progress by Marco Galvani and Jonathan Higgins and a reading of an MOP commissioned libretto (probably the first UK commissioned libretto in years) by Manchester poet Tom Jenks for solo voice and imaginary bear.

What’s on at Festival One in Manchester?

27 July:
Monodramas at Halle St Peter’s.  8.30pm
Three new commissioned monodramas, or mini operas written for one singer, from composers Philip Venables, (Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award Winner & Royal Opera House Composer in Residence), Ailís Ní Riaín, (winner of the 2016 Paul Hamelyn Foundation Award for Composers) and New York composer Michael Rose
From Venables (pictued) we have Laura Sings (Oklahoma) a searing, compassionate account of recovery from rape. Written in partnership with composer Laura Jayne Bowler (who will perform the piece) and Size Zero Opera, the monodrama uses verbatim texts from rape survivors and, according to Venables, other bits of found text, including excerpts of children’s books as well as part of Valerie Solanas’ SCUM manifesto. Written in Venables’ characteristic clear and sparse musical style, the piece is a rare and brave account of rape from the victim’s point of view. Accompanied by electronic backing.
Also featured is Ní Riaín’s, Break Down De Doom, a delightful, tongue twisting mini opera using text, by special permission, from The Invention of Tragedy, a play by the absurdist American playwright Mac Wellman.  The excerpted text which begins with the command ‘And chop the chails off all cats!’ is an untraditional portrait of a traditional character in six, miniature acts, written in a rollicking, Joycean style. Ní Riaín sets it with an avant-garde joie de vive, even getting members instrumental ensemble to join in with the singer on certain syllables. The piece will be sung by mezzo soprano and RNCM graduate Jennifer Parker, accompanied by instrumental ensemble
In his piece “in the Time When Animals Were Men, Rose sets a fable from British novelist Hari Kunzru’s Gods With Men, telling a tale of a Coyote who a la Breaking Bad goes to the desert to make methamphetamine, with predictably tragic results. Rose’s beautifully complex, atonal melodies lend themselves well to a setting of the Coyote’s mournful cries in the desert. The piece will be sung by Covent Garden tenor, Timothy Langston. Accompanied by instrumental ensemble
Tickets £12 in advance/£15 on the door.

29 July:
Readings of New Operas at International Anthony Burgess Foundation.  8.00pm
Featuring excerpts from Autopilot Saves Model S; a chamber opera in progress by Manchester based composer Marco Galvani and librettist Leo Mercer and the Manchester premiere of Schutzwall: a chamber opera for two voices on either side of the Berlin wall by electronic composer Jonathan Higgins
Tickets £7 in advance/£8 on the door.

3 August:
Crabtree (the Libretto) at the Kings Arms.  8.00pm
A staged reading of Manchester poet Tom Jenk’s Crabtree, the Libretto, commissioned by Manchester Opera Project, a dramatic, often hilarious, monologue for a man befuddled in face of modernity and haunted by sightings of an elusive imaginary bear. Featuring the poet himself (as Crabtree) plus mystery guest poet playing the bear. Accompanied by jazz musician Steve Berry on improvised double bass
Tickets £2 in advance/£3 on the door.

Full details of Festival One are available at the Manchester Opera Project website.

Philip Venables image courtesy Harald Hoffmann