From Bruges to Bangor
It’s been a busy few weeks – but one week in particular earlier this month consisted of a jam-packed schedule, triggering a host of thoughts and reflections to share. Lots of travel, lots of meetings and lots of ideas, presenting potential and challenge!
First up, on Friday 9th September was British Youth Opera performing Owen Wingrave in London. All the young performers had clearly been well supported and delivered good performances in a convincing production which took the piece seriously and did it proud.
Next stop Bruges: The composer Vasco Mendonça had invited me to see the world premiere on Saturday evening of his new opera Bosch Beach in the splendid looking Concertgebouw. I had workshopped Vasco’s first opera for the Aix-en-Provence Festival and later produced his music theatre piece Ping with MTW, so was interested to see what he was doing next. The commission formed part of the 500th anniversary of the painter Bosch and the opera was both fascinating and frustrating. The basic idea was really striking, setting the story on a contemporary Mediterranean beach where three hedonistic young people were on holiday in order to indulge themselves. Alongside this, the bodies of drowned migrants were being washed up, creating a kind of Bosch-like hell on earth and provoking a contemplation of how we are responding to this real-life situation. The message could not be missed but somehow the drama didn’t quite come to life, despite some really striking music and variety of sound coming from the ensemble. There was a good representation of European new opera producers present and it’s always heartening to see how much interest there is in the creation and exploration of new opera.
Arriving back in London on Sunday evening, my next event was a UK-wide meeting of producers, conservatoires and interested parties on Monday afternoon to discuss a new report into the training of opera singers in the UK and their subsequent professional development. It was a lively session, excellently run by the National Opera Studio, and it looks like some positive action may emerge. I spoke with many colleagues and old friends and also managed to schedule in an additional meeting after the session which explored future avenues for MTW. It never stops!
On Tuesday it was the auction of our painting by William Crozier at Sotheby’s. An extraordinary event to witness but one that ended in disappointment for MTW with the painting failing to reach its reserve. Some paintings went well beyond their estimates, but others, like ours, failed to go. A nerve tingling and brutal event to witness, but all done with great refinement and professionalism.
After various creative conversations on Wednesday concerning our two current commissions, receiving the first draft of a translation for a future production and exploring how we might participate in a large-scale project with multiple schools across South Wales, I jump on another train. This time it’s up to Bangor to see how we might develop a longer-term relationship with the University and the new venue, Pontio. It’s looking good. I also managed to have a meeting with Guto Puw the composer of our new opera Y Tŵr. We discuss some dramaturgical issues and then he talked me through the almost completed full score for Act I. How exciting is that?