Make an Aria – Bangor

Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of witnessing the culmination of six months’ work from our composer / librettist teams at Bangor University. Students from the School of Music, School of English Literature and Ysgol y Gymraeg came together to create five new arias from scratch, which were then performed by professional singers in a public masterclass on Friday 11th May. With their wealth of experience, Llio Evans, Leah-Marian Jones and Robyn Lyn Evans brought these new pieces to life whilst composer Rhian Samuel stepped in at the last minute to offer insight and feedback on each aria.

At Music Theatre Wales we are concerned about the future of opera. We want more composers, writers and others to make new work that challenges and develops what opera and music theatre is and might be. We place music at the very centre of the theatrical and dramatic experience, and to achieve this we need to not only excite and inspire new voices but also provide opportunities for artists to discover how exciting creating new opera and music theatre can be and how to start going about it. Key to this is helping composers work in collaboration with other artists. Likewise, we are also keen to introduce opera as a legitimate form for writers too. One memorable response to Make an Aria came in Birmingham where a creative writing lecturer declared that we had opened up an entirely new area of writing for their department! This is the essence of our Make an Aria project – introducing emerging composers and writers to the form and providing a mentored and real life introduction to creating it.

Here is some feedback from the most recent participants in Make an Aria in Bangor:

“Wedi imi gael fy magu ar operâu traddodiadol Verdi, Puccini, Bizet a’r mawrion eraill, mae prosiect Make an Aria wedi taflu golau newydd ar y cyfrwng cerddorol arbennig sydd Opera. Fel cyfansoddwr offerynnol a chorawl, roedd cyfansoddi aria ar gyfer un llais, un cymeriad, un stori, ac un bywyd unigryw, yn cynnig sialens newydd imi. Unwaith y penderfynon ni ar ein stori, Y Tri Cham, a gweld y newyddion lleol yn darlledu am ddigartrefedd dros y Nadolig, llifodd y syniadau i’m hawen yn ddyddiol. Yn ogystal â pharch newydd at opera cyfoes, mae byw a bod digartrefedd wrth gyfansoddi’r aria ‘Tri Cham’ wedi egino meddylfryd newydd tuag atyn nhw a welir yn ddyddiol yn eistedd ar hyd ein strydoedd lleol. Diolch Music Theatre Wales am gyfle anhygoel, ac am gyfoethogi fy nealltwriaeth o gymdeithas, yn ogystal ag o gerddoriaeth opera.”

“Having been brought up on traditional operas by Verdi, Puccini, Bizet and the other great composers, the Make an Aria project has thrown new light on the special music media that is Opera. As a composer of instrumental and choral works, composing an aria for one voice, one character, one story and one unique life, offered me a new challenge. Once we had decided on our story, The Three Steps, and seeing the local news about homelessness being broadcast over the Christmas period, the ideas flowed daily into my subconscious. In addition to creating a new respect in me for contemporary opera, living and breathing homelessness whilst composing the ‘Three Steps’ aria has awakened in me a new attitude towards those we see daily on our local streets. Thank you, Music Theatre Wales, for an exceptional opportunity, and for enriching my understanding of society, in addition to my understanding of opera music.”

Alistair O’Mahoney – Composer, Y Tri Cham

“It was a challenging yet very enjoyable process for me as a writer to use my skills in a cross- disciplinary endeavour in writing an aria when I had no prior experience in this field.

The challenge lay in the format of the writing process, but by combining my experience of screenwriting in the context of a musical piece, I found that certain creative elements from different artistic forms are able to lend themselves together in a way that, for me at least, was intuitive and creatively satisfying.

I would certainly consider working in this fashion again, and I am thankful to everybody involved in this innovative, creative project.”

Luke Moore – Librettist, Lost on Mars

“For me, this has been an entirely new experience and raised my awareness of the effect of opera. Having to change my focus to bring out the expression and emotion of Lucy’s words in the music was a real challenge. Through this project I came across many contemporary opera scores by John Adams, Philip Glass, Judith Weir, and Thomas Adès which have helped open my ears to the kind of dramaturgy that Lucy’s text needed. This has been an excellent opportunity and working with Michael McCarthy and Richard Baker, as well as performers from Music Theatre Wales, has been a privilege. Seeing how the performers and directors approached my work gave me a great insight into how drama works in an operatic scene. This project has certainly sparked a new interest in the dramatic potential of vocal music.”

Zach Reading – Composer, Divided

“Hoffwn ddiolch i Music Theatre Wales am y cyfle eithriadol sy’n cael ei gynnig gan eu cynllun Gwnewch Aria. Roedd yr arweiniad a gawsom gan Michael McCarthy a Richard Baker yn werthfawr iawn, ac yn peri i ni feddwl am y stori gefndir sy’n symbylu cymeriad i ymateb a gweithredu fel y gwna.

Roedd cael cydweithio efo’r cyfansoddwr Tom Hughes dros gyfnod o fisoedd, gyda chyfarfodydd achlysurol efo’r cyfarwyddwyr proffesiynol, yn rhoi cyfle i ni drafod a datblygu’n syniadau er mwyn creu aria a oedd, gobeithio, yn undod cerddorol a dramatig.

Hufen y cynllun oedd y wefr o glywed perfformiad gwefreiddiol y tenor Robyn Lyn o’n cyfansoddiad.

Hoffwn annog unrhyw gyfansoddwr neu libretydd sy’n cael y cyfle i fod yn rhan o’r cynllun i fwrw iddi’n ddibetrus.”

“I would like to thank Music Theatre Wales for the exceptional opportunity offered by their Make an Aria scheme. The guidance we were given by Michael McCarthy and Richard Baker was very valuable, and made us consider the background story that leads a character to respond and act in the manner in which he or she does.

The experience of collaborating with the composer Tom Hughes over a period of several months, together with occasional meetings with the professional directors, gave us an opportunity to discuss and develop our ideas in order to create an aria that was, I hope, a musical and dramatic unity.

The highlight of the scheme was the pleasure we had in listening to the thrilling performance of our composition, given by the tenor Robyn Lyn.

I would like to encourage any composer or librettist who is offered the opportunity of being part of the scheme to grasp it without a moment’s hesitation.”

Eleri Cwyfan – Librettist, Neb

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