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Grimeborn 2013 - Arcola Theatre

Grimeborn 2013

Theatre preview

WITH 14 productions, from exciting new operas to radical small-scale reworkings of established favourites by Mozart, Monteverdi, Debussy and Handel, the seventh annual Grimeborn Festival will be held at the Arcola Theatre in London’s East End from Tuesday, July 30 to Saturday, August 31.

Now firmly established as an annual highlight in the classical calendar, the Grimeborn Festival was first staged in 2007.

The festival’s name and E8 location is a humourous reference to ultra-posh Glyndebourne House in East Sussex, where 1,200 high-spending opera-goers in full evening dress picnic in the gardens before sitting down to watch expensive productions staged in a modern, world-class opera house.

In contrast, Grimeborn, staged in the 200-seat Studio 1 and 100-seat Studio 2 at Arcola Theatre, is pared down and on a much smaller scale, supporting and showcasing emerging performers and writers and new or experimental productions.

The “grime” comes from it having a “dirtier” backdrop in a converted paint factory in the vibrant bustle of Hackney as opposed to the champagne picnics and scenic gardens of Glyndebourne.

The season is curated by Arcola Theatre’s Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen, who said: “If you love opera, Grimeborn is definitely the place to see and hear – often for the very first time – the opera stars of tomorrow and the work of exciting new composers.”


Cosi Fan Tutte by Mozart – Tuesday, July 30 to Saturday, August 3 (not August 1). Studio 1.

Grimeborn Festival opens with the premiere of Opera 24’s new production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte. This masterpiece about love, loyalty and the battle of the sexes is brought roaring into the 21st Century with a witty contemporary libretto, new orchestrations for a 7-piece orchestra by acclaimed conductor/arranger John Jansson and a snappy new staging from director Benet Catty.

Opera 24’s production of this romantic classic promises to be a witty, wise, slick and sophisticated evening. Opera 24 is a new production company founded to reconceive large-scale operas in intimate settings with small casts and new orchestrations.

Benet Catty directs a cast that includes Danae Eleni (as Despina), Christopher Jacklin (Guglielmo), Andre Refig (Don Alfonso), Edward Saklatvala (Ferrando), Louisa Tee (Fiordiligi) and Sophie Yelland (Dorabella).

Exquisite Corpses by Christopher Glynn, presented by The Vocal Constructives – Thursday, August 1. Studio 1.

Exquisite Corpses throws into juxtaposition British and American experimental compositions that use graphic and open forms of notation. The Vocal Constructivists rely exclusively on the human body for their instrumentation.

Coming from diverse musical backgrounds, the group draws on a variety of artistic influences – classical, global, avant-garde, eclectic, and performance art. The music is also communicated in visual displays, enabling the audience to witness the interpretative strategies first hand. The programme features six living composers – Mark Applebaum, Anthony Braxton, George Chambers, Pauline Oliveros, Michael Parsons and Lauren Redhead.

The cast includes Adrian Cole, Ali Warner, Barbara Alden, Celia Springate, Charles Hutchins, Clare Brady, Dominic McGonigal, George Chambers, Jill House, John McLeod, Lauren Redhead, Linn D., Minjas Zugik, Rebecca Hardwick, Simon Walton and Stephen Rice.

The Magic Flute by Mozart in a new English translation by John Warrack, presented by Ryedale Festival Opera – Wednesday, August 7 to Saturday, August 10 (not August 8). Studio 1.

This is the London transfer of Ryedale Festival’s sold-out production of The Magic Flute, one of the best-loved operas in history, which has been captivating audiences since 1791. This is a brand new English translation, with fresh, young, talented singers selected from top music colleges including The Royal Academy of Music, The Royal College of Music, Guildhall and the Royal Northern College of Music.

The Magic Flute will be performed with the Quintessence Wind Ensemble and the Eka Quartet, whose members have performed with leading orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the Britten-Pears Orchestra.

The Magic Flute is directed by Nina Brazier, whose previous sell-out productions at the Grimeborn Festival include The Old Maid and the Thief, Spilt Milk and Trouble in Tahiti.

Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell, presented by Eboracum Baroque – Thursday, August 8 to Saturday, August 10. Studio 2.

An exciting new take on Purcell’s classic opera, it recounts the story of Dido, Queen of Carthage and her love for the Trojan Warrior, Aeneas. With an evil Sorceress and witches at work, this love is short lived as despair and destruction are brought to the Queen’s Court. Aeneas is tricked into leaving the stricken queen but defies the gods to return. Dido refutes his advances for even having the thought of leaving her. Belinda attempts to console the heart-broken queen, but all is in vain.

Eboracum Baroque are a young group featuring some of the top performers from the best music institutions in the UK. They specialise in the authentic performance of Baroque music and this can be seen in this production featuring period instruments from the 17th century.

Director Chris Parsons is currently studying at the Royal College of Music for a Masters in Historical Performance. Choreography is by Mary Collins.

Size Zero Opera Company presents two world premieres – Tuesday, August 13 to Saturday, August 17 (matinee on Saturday, August 17 at 2.30pm). Studio 1.

The Viagron

The double bill opens with The Viagron by German composer Arne Gieshoff and librettist Frank Allison, based on the classical Roman text The Satyricon by Petronius. Focusing on the sexual misadventures of the impotent central character, Encolpius, the opera presents both his past and present in an explicit and sometimes humorously vulgar examination of lust and love set against Gieshoff’s aggressively taught score.

The production, which is kindly supported by the PRS Foundation, contains partial nudity and scenes of a sexual nature.

The cast includes Richard Latham, John Lattimore, Fleur de Bray, Katie Walker, Catarina Sereno and Nika Von Arning.

Kettlehead by Darren Bloom and Neil Georgeson.

The bill is completed by Kettlehead by American composer Darren Bloom and librettist Neil Georgeson. Set in colonial Africa at the end of the 19th century, the opera explores a twisted tale of voodoo and revenge focused on the tragic transformation of a promising young girl into a mutilated social pariah. The creation of this new work has been supported by the London Symphony Orchestra’s Sound Hub project.

Kettlehead is directed by Matthew Monaghan whose directing credits include productions at English National Opera and The Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, and conducted by Size Zero Opera’s principle conductor Jonathan Mann. The productions feature sets by London fringe theatre veteran Fly Davies.

The cast includes Laura J Bowler, Andrew Mckintosh, Ben Williamson, Chris Jacklin, Kathleen Linton Ford and Christopher Diffey-Wilson.

The Miller’s Wife, with music and libretto by Mike Christie, directed by Matthew Gould – Wednesday, August 14 to Saturday, August 17 (not August 15). Studio 2.

This is the world premiere of an enticing new British opera, sung in English, and set in the beautiful surroundings of North East Essex. It boasts memorable melodies and potent arias enhanced by warm romantic orchestration that has echoes of Puccini with a modern twist.

Bill Marner the miller has always wanted a child of his own but his wife Winnie is too infirm to bear children. So, he decides to have a child with her carer Maude, who is also his mistress. Forced to flee from the village, Bill and his son William do not return for almost 20 years. But when they do, Bill wants to take his own life when he discovers that William is not his son after all. So, will a secret that has been kept for nearly two decades save William’s plans to marry Maude’s daughter Jessie – and ultimately Bill’s life?

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Pelléas et Mélisande by Claud Debussy – Tuesday, August 20 to Saturday, August 24 (not August 22). Studio 1.

This tragic story of love and jealousy between Golaud, his wife Mélisande and his younger half brother Pelléas starts when Golaud finds Mélisande crying by a well in the forest. Golaud decides to marry Mélisande and bring her with him to the castle of his grandfather Arkel. Pelléas and Mélisande fall in love but do not confess it to each other until it is too late. Pelléas dies by the sword and Mélisande by the psychological and incurable wound to her soul, both caused by Golaud, a human being trying to reach for his avid desire of possessing love.

Aylin Bozok directs a cast that includes Gerard Collett, Ilona Domnich, Alan Ewing, Oliver Hunt, Carris Jones and Lucy Roberts. Co-produced by Bury Court Opera, the production has musical direction by Philip Voldman and lighting by Joshua Pharo.

Black Sand, composer Na’ama Zisser, libretto Samantha Newton – Thursday, August 22. Studio 1.

A Horror-UV-Electronic/chamber opera set in 1950s America, Black Sand is about a man so reluctant to confront his fear that it destroys him and everything he loves. Imagine the time right before you fall asleep, when you are alone and your mind plays tricks on you, it is not what is seen but what is heard; an opera singer’s voice electronically enhanced, an upbeat pop song of the era transformed into a sadistic lullaby, a rock n’ roll passage ripped out of context giving us the uncanny feeling that everything is not quite right.

It’s America, 1952, and Nathanael is madly in love with Olympia but is being tormented by the Sandman. Terrified and determined to keep his eyes, Nathanael decides his only defense is to sleep forever.

The cast includes Caroline Kennedy and James Hall. Electronics and sound design is by Daniel Grossman and designs by Simon Bejer

Lament, based on Monteverdi’s L’Arianna, directed and devised by Daisy Evans – Friday, August 23 to Saturday, August 24. Studio 2.

Silent Opera present a newly devised opera based around the famous story of Ariadne. Using entirely synthesised sounds and technologies, this is the sound of a new method of presenting opera. This is the Theatre of Sound.

Trapped, abandoned and completely helpless, how often have we felt the light of hope fade into darkness, and how frequently have we surrendered to melancholy and sadness? Lament opens a window into the mind of Ariadne, presenting a unique and brand new operatic sound world to express her feeling and action. Abandoned by her love, she longs for death and thinks her world will cease. But the sun always rises, and her Lament becomes a path to new hope and rejuvenation.

The cast includes Katie Slater.

Handel Furioso, a new staging of arias and duets by Handel directed by Max Hoehn – Tuesday, August 27 to Saturday, August 31 (not August 29). Studio 1.

Handel Furioso is a love story told through arias and duets, exploring a couple’s life together from childhood to old age, featuring two outstanding young singers – Anna Starushkevych, winner of the Handel Singing Competiton 2012, and Robyn Allegra Parton. Acclaimed soloist, Julian Perkins, conducts the Sounds Baroque Ensemble, following their much-admired recording of early cantatas.

Handel Furioso has evolved from a 30-minute showcase, successfully presented at Grimeborn 2012, into a full-length piece of theatre, with music from Rodelinda, Rinaldo, and lesser known works, accompanied for the first time by a period ensemble. This is the opening production by a new company, Isle of Noise, whose aim is to create new work, freely adapted from existing repertoire and presented outside the context of a traditional opera house. The production is part-funded by an Arts Council Grant award.

Strekoza i Muravej (Grasshopper and Ant), composer Brian Hosefros, libretist Vadim Yurchenko – Thursday, August 29. Studio 1.

Set in Moscow, this is a re-imagining of the classic Russian fable following the lives of the extravagant Strekoza and the dutiful Muravej. The story begins at one of Strekoza’s (Grasshopper’s) glamorous parties. As the crowd leaves, we too leave her luxurious lifestyle and cross to the strict, scheduled, ever laborious, Muravej, (Ant), who confesses to his close friend, and mutual friend of Strekoza, his love for Strekoza.

But Strekoza has an ever-mounting debt which she is unable to pay. It inevitably lands her in squalor: homeless, and with no one to help her. Meanwhile, Muravej’s rigorous nature affords him a promotion and a new home, the former home of Strekoza. As he finds her ribbon left behind, he discovers her dying in the winter streets of Moscow.

The story here is Russian in both language and place, but the meaning is universal, questioning the way we live our lives. Strekoza i Muravej is a rare cross-cultural collaboration in opera: an American composing an opera in a non-native language with a Latvian poet, based on a story entwined with Russian culture – Ivan Krylov’s 1808 poem, Strekoza i Muravej.

The cast includes Jaroslav Gavrilov, Bella Adamova and Benjamin Siefert.

Eros & Psyche, composed by Jeff Spencer – Friday, August 30 to Saturday, August 31. Studio 2.

Quys & Laila, composed by Danyal Dhondy – Friday, August 30 to Saturday, August 31. Studio 2.

A timeless tragedy of undying love that has been told in many guises and many languages, across continents and centuries. This version, set in modern Dubai, explores through contemporary operatic language themes of social status, wealth, patriarchy, repression, and the many forms that love can take.