Eight Songs for a Mad King
Music: Peter Maxwell Davies Words: Randolph Slow and George III
First Performance: Tuesday 26 March 2013 - Dora Stoutzker Hall, RWCMD, Cardiff
CAST & CHARACTERS
King Kelvin Thomas
Michael Rafferty Conductor
Michael McCarthy Director
Simon Banham Designer
Ace McCarron Lighting Designer
“Music Theatre Wales’s staging, directed by Michael McCarthy tries nothing fancy and lets the power of Maxwell Davies’s concept speak for itself. Kelvin Thomas’s authoritative embodiment of the night-shirted King is both pathetic and disturbing, complemented by superb playing from MTW’s band, conducted by Michael Rafferty.”
The Telegraph on Eight Songs for a Mad King
“Kelvin Thomas’s performance is one of the most compelling I’ve seen. A lumbering, shambling mountain of a king, in wig and nightdress, Thomas’s portrayal of the deranged George III moves from horror to pity with a hundred nuances of human affliction in between. And his vocal virtuosity is so closely integrated with the voices of the instrumental ensemble, conducted by Michael Rafferty, that they seem a single nerve system — sentient, shattered, always in shock.”
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GEOFFREY PATERSON, CONDUCTOR
Geoffrey Paterson studied at Cambridge University and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, taking composition lessons with Alexander Goehr and participating in conducting masterclasses with Pierre Boulez. He won First Prize at the 2009 Leeds Conductors Competition.
He works regularly at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where he was a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, assisting conductors including Antonio Pappano, Mark Elder, Andris Nelsons and Daniele Gatti on an extensive repertoire. For two seasons he worked in Bayreuth as musical assistant to Kirill Petrenko for Der Ring des Nibelungen.
For the ROH he has conducted Le Portrait de Manon and several world premières. He has also conducted at Opera North (La bohème), the Royal Danish Opera (Porgy and Bess and The Nutcracker), Glyndebourne (Followers and Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Iford Festival Opera (Don Giovanni and La Vie Parisienne), Aldeburgh and Holland festivals (The Corridor and The Cure) and the Buxton and Bregenz festivals (Gloria von Jaxtberg).
He regularly works with the London Sinfonietta, and other recent concert appearances include the Manchester Camerata, Hamburg Symphony Orchestra and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He has recorded for NMC with the London Sinfonietta and for BBC Radio 3 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
MICHAEL MCCARTHY, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
I co-founded Music Theatre Wales in 1988, and as Artistic Director I want the company to stay at the forefront of new opera in Wales, the UK and beyond. Alongside MTW, from 1998-2012 I was Artistic Director of Operatoriet - the contemporary opera studio for Norway, and from 2007 – 2012 I was Dramaturg for FIVE:15 - Operas Made in Scotland for Scottish Opera. In 2012 I led the Opera Creation Academy at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. In the 1980s I was fortunate to work as revival director for The Fires of London, the company run by Peter Maxwell Davies.
I have staged over 40 contemporary operas and worked on more than 100 new works. Other productions include large-scale outdoor stagings of Tosca and Nabucco, and productions of La Traviata, Cosi fan Tutte, Il Re Pastore, Fidelio and Don Giovanni. Also, Cinderella by Peter Maxwell Davies for WNO and S4C Television, The Lighthouse for BBC2 TV and The Forbidden Hymn - a community opera in the South Wales Valleys. Future plans include the USA premiere of The Trial by Philip Glass in St Louis following performances in Scotland, and future productions for Music Theatre Wales.
In January 2015 I was awarded Best Director at the Wales Theatre Awards for my world premiere production of The Trial by Philip Glass for Music Theatre Wales. My production of Greek won Outstanding Achievement in Opera at the TMA Awards. I was honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours in 2016.
SIMON BANHAM, DESIGNER
Simon has a long working relationship with Music Theatre Wales, most recently the World Premiere of Philip Glass’ new opera The Trial. Before this he designed the British Premiere of Luci Mie Traditrici and Greek (Outstanding Achievement in Opera 2011).
He is a founder member of the theatre company Quarantine, and is responsible for the scenography on all their productions over the past 18 years. Most recently Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring, a quartet of works performed over one day, and Wallflower a durational piece seeking to remember every dance ever danced.
Recently he has begun collaborating with Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes on a body of work with National Theatre Wales - The Persians (Best Design 2010 award by the TMA) and Coriolan/us, (chosen for exhibition at the World Stage Design 2013), and The Iliad.
For the past 4 years Simon has also been a commissioner for the international Performance Design event at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. Simon currently teaches at Aberystwyth University, Wales, where he is the Reader in Scenography and Theatre Design.
ACE MCCARRON, LIGHTING DESIGNER
Ace McCarron is a freelance lighting designer based in Cardiff. Through work with such companies as The Fires of London, Music Theatre Wales and the Operastudio Vlaanderen he has designed lighting for many contemporary operas. He is also known for work with many new-writing companies, and with children’s and black theatre companies. He has been a member of Howard Barker’s company The Wrestling School since 1989 and lit their eight-hour-long production The Ecstatic Bible at the Adelaide Festival.
Recent operatic engagements include: The Devil Inside and In the Locked Room/Ghost Patrol – world premieres and co-productions between Music Theatre Wales and Scottish Opera, The Trial by Philip Glass – world premiere, Greek (last seen at the Tongyeong Music Festival), Eight Songs for a Mad King, The Killing Flower (Sciarrino’s Luci mie traditrici), The Golden Dragon (Music Theatre Wales); Elle est Moi et Tote Mich, (Operastudio Vlaanderen); Orlando Paladino (Wiener Kammeroper); The Fairy Queen (Istanbul Music Festival); Waar is Mijn Zeil? (Muziektheater Transparent).
With composer Guy Harries, he won the inaugural Flourish award for an adaptation of Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka.
GUTO PUW, COMPOSER
Guto Pryderi Puw studied Music at Bangor University under composers John Pickard, Pwyll ap Siôn and Andrew Lewis, gaining his MMus in 1996 and later his PhD in Composition in 2002. He was appointed as a full member of staff in 2006 lecturing mainly on Composition and Contemporary Music and was appointed as Head of Composition in 2015.
He first came to prominence after winning the Composer’s Medal at the National Eisteddfod in 1995 and for the second time in 1997. His music has been featured in many festivals around the UK and broadcast regularly on Radio and television. In February 2006 he became the inaugural Resident Composer with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, with his Concerto for Oboe winning the Listeners’ Award category at the British Composer Awards in 2007 and ‘…onyt agoraf y drws…’ (‘unless I open the door’) being premiered at the Proms during the same year. Y Tŵr (‘The Tower’) based on the play by Gwenlyn Parry and with libretto by Gwyneth Glyn will be his first chamber opera. Future commissions include a second violin concerto, a string quartet and a large orchestral work.
A selection of his recent orchestral works was released on the CD Reservoirs by Signum Records in 2014. He also received the Sir Geraint Evans Award by the Welsh Music Guild for ‘his significant contribution to Welsh music’ in 2014. For many years Puw has been active in the promotion of new music in north Wales through his involvement with the Bangor Music Festival, being its founding member and Artistic Director since 2000.
GWYNETH GLYN, LIBRETTIST
Gwyneth Glyn is a poet, writer and singer-songwriter who lives in Cricieth, North Wales. She was Welsh Poet Laureate for Children 2006-2007 and has written extensively for theatre in Wales, including pieces for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Bara Caws, Y Frân Wen, De Oscuro and Music Theatre Wales’ production of Stori’r Milwr/The Soldier’s Tale. She writes regularly for Welsh soap opera Pobol y Cwm. She has performed internationally at WOMEX, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington DC, and at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City. In 2015 she supported Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita on his UK tour, and recently collaborated with musicians from Mumbai on an album called Ghazalaw, which weaves Welsh folk songs with Indian Ghazal. She is currently recording her next solo album.
Find out more about Gwyneth here: http://gwynethglyn.com/
RICHARD BAKER, CONDUCTOR
Richard Baker is a leading figure on the British contemporary music scene as one of the foremost composer-conductors of his generation. He studied composition in the Netherlands with Louis Andriessen and in London with John Woolrich, and first drew significant attention with two early works - Los Rábanos (1998) and Learning to Fly (1999). Hommagesquisse, typically characterful and inventive, was commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group – with whom Richard also has a strong relationship as conductor – to mark Pierre Boulez’s visit to that city in 2008. In 2010 Baker’s music was featured in the Philharmonia’s Music of Today series, and the same year he wrote Gaming, a substantial chamber work for cello, marimba and piano, to a commission from the New York-based trio Real Quiet. His second BCMG commission, The Tyranny of Fun, was premiered in February 2013, and led Andrew Clements of the Guardian to comment on ‘how assured Baker’s ensemble writing is, and how vividly it fleshes out its structural frame’. The work was short-listed for a Royal Philharmonic Society Award last year. Three chamber pieces had their premieres in 2015/16, works for solo piano, solo harp, and a string trio. He also wrote a new work for BCMG to conclude their season.
As a conductor, Richard works regularly with the leading composers of our day. In autumn 2012, he led English Touring Opera's admired production of Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse and, in spring 2013, conducted the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe's double-bill of Handel's The Triumph of Time and Truth and Gerald Barry's The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit. The 2012-13 season also saw his debuts with both the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, adding to existing relationships with ensembles including the London Sinfonietta, BCMG, Britten Sinfonia, Composers Ensemble and Apartment House. In spring 2014, he conducted a double-bill of new works by Francisco Coll and Elspeth Brooke at Aldeburgh, the Linbury Studio (Royal Opera House) and Opera North. (‘the wonderfully assured conducting of Richard Baker’ Guy Damman, Times). He was immediately reinvited for the Spring 2015 production of The Virtues of Things by Matt Rogers, and invited again last season to conduct the enormously successful world premiere of 4:48 Psychosis by Phil Venables, based on the play by Sarah Kane.
SAMAL BLAK, DESIGNER
Born in the Faroe Islands, Samal trained at the Central St. Martins College of Art & Design and won the 2009 Linbury Prize for Stage Design. Samal’s work was chosen to represent the UK as part of the ‘Make/Believe: UK Design for Performance 2011-2015′ exhibition at the V&A, previously at the Prague Quadrennial.
Productions include: HAMLET (Gothenburg Opera); OTELLO (nominated for the 2010 RPS music award for Opera and music theatre), KHOVANSHCHINA (Winner – Best New Production, International Opera Awards 2015) and LIFE IS A DREAM - world premiere (Birmingham Opera Company); FALSTAFF and FIDELIO (Bucharest National Opera); THE DEVIL INSIDE (nominated for Outstanding Achievement in opera at the UK Theatre Awards 2016), IN THE LOCKED ROOM and GHOST PATROL (winner- South Bank Sky Arts Award 2013) – world premieres, (Scottish Opera and Music Theatre Wales); LES MAMELLES DE TIRESIAS (De Nationale Opera Amsterdam, La Monnaie Brussels, Aldeburgh Music, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence); TOSCA (Opera Ostfold, Norway); EUGENE ONEGIN (Theater an der Wien-in der kammeroper); GIASONE, AGRIPPINA, SIMON BOCCANEGRA, THE SIEGE OF CALAIS, COSI FAN TUTTE (ETO); L’INCORONAZIONE DI POPPEA (RCM, ETO); MACBETH (Geurilla Theatre Seoul); HOW TO BE AN OTHER WOMAN (Gate Theatre, London).
In 2007 he was awarded the Thorvald Poulsen av Steinum award.
For more information go to http://samalblak.com
STUART MACRAE, Composer
‘When I read Treasure Island as a boy I found real fascination in the characters and the situations. There is a vividness about the way Robert Louis Stevenson told tales, the basic human emotions and relationships which are easy for people to understand. I want this quality in the opera.
I want to evoke lots of different emotions through the music. It won’t be too heavy, although it has dark moments, and not too light-hearted although it has moments of joy. Each of the seven scenes has a different musical sound world where the music portrays the overall atmosphere as well as the emotions of the characters. Each scene becomes a musical entity in its own right, identifying time, location and emotional state, creating a series of different worlds each with a unique musical location and flavour.’
Born in Inverness, Stuart MacRae is one of the most distinctive composers of his generation, writing music of elemental power and emotional subtlety. His works include a Violin Concerto (2001), Hamartia for cello and ensemble (2004) and Gaudete for soprano and orchestra (2008), all of which have been performed at the BBC Proms. His music often draws on structures and images of nature, characters from myth and the poetry of Ted Hughes, of which Gaudete is a large-scale setting.
Works for the stage include the opera The Assassin Tree (2006) to a libretto by Simon Armitage, and the dance-opera Echo and Narcissus (2007). He has collaborated with librettist Louise Welsh on two previous operas: Remembrance Day (2009), part of Scottish Opera’s Five:15 Operas Made in Scotland project; and Ghost Patrol (2012), a co-production between Scottish Opera and Music Theatre Wales. Ghost Patrol won a South Bank Sky Arts Award and was shortlisted for an Olivier Award.
Stuart’s music has been performed regularly at the Linbury Studio of the Royal Opera House and the Edinburgh International Festival, and by ensembles including the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, London Sinfonietta, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Ensemble and Hebrides Ensemble, as well as numerous orchestras in the UK and abroad.
Stuart was Composer in Association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra from 1999 to 2003. He was resident composer at the Spannungen Kammermusikfest in Heimbach, Germany in 2003, and Edinburgh Festival Creative Fellow at the University of Edinburgh from 2005 to 2006. From 2006 to 2007 he was a resident composer at Internationales Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia in Bamberg, Germany. He teaches composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and at Edinburgh University.
Recent projects include Parable, a setting of Wilfred Owen’s poetry commissioned by Hebrides Ensemble. He is currently working on a new piece for the Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, and a second piano sonata for pianist Simon Smith.
Find out more about Stuart here.
Louise Welsh, Librettist
Louise Welsh is the author of seven novels, most recently Death is a Welcome Guest (John Murray 2015). She has written many short stories and articles and is the author of three plays. She has edited volumes of prose and poetry, and contributed to various journals and anthologies. She is the editor of Yonder Awa, a collection of poetry on the theme of Scotland and the North Atlantic slave trade by Scottish and Caribbean writers, and Ghost, a collection of one hundred ghost stories from Pliny the Younger to James Robertson (Head of Zeus 2015).
She has presented over 30 features for BBC Radio, including Hellfire Nation (BBC Radio Scotland), Bannockburn Begins (BBC Radio 3) and Welsh’s Scottish Journey (BBC Radio 4).
Other radio appearances include BBC Radio 4: Open Book, A Good Read, Saturday Review, Front Row, Woman’s Hour; BBC Radio 3: The Verb, Night Waves; BBC Radio Scotland: The Culture Café, Fred McAulay Show, Breaking the News.
Louise has received numerous awards and international fellowships, including an Honorary Doctor of Arts from Edinburgh Napier University and an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.
She has collaborated with composer Stuart MacRae on two previous operas: Remembrance Day, part of Scottish Opera’s Five:15 Operas Made in Scotland project, and Ghost Patrol, a co-production between Scottish Opera and Music Theatre Wales. Ghost Patrol won a South Bank Sky Arts Award and was shortlisted for an Olivier Award.
In 2014 Louise was co-founder and director (with Jude Barber of Collective Architecture) of the Empire Café, an award-winning, multi-disciplinary exploration of Scotland’s relationship with the North Atlantic slave trade. The project was included in Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games Cultural Programme.
She is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.
Michael Rafferty, Conductor
After a short career as a research physicist, Michael Rafferty switched to music initially as a violinist and later as conductor. He is co-founder and Joint Artistic Director of Music Theatre Wales and has conducted all its productions. Other conducting has included performances with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, London Mozart Players, Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse, Norway’s BIT 20 Ensemble, Musikfabrik of Cologne, The Composers’ Ensemble and PM Music Ensemble. Altogether, he has conducted the works of more than 80 living composers and 40 opera productions.
Many of his performances have been broadcast on radio and TV and he has made several CDs - most recently, Michael Berkeley’s opera For You released on Signum Classics and In the Penal Colony, released on Philip Glass’s own label Orange Mountain Music. In November 2010 he was awarded a prestigious Arts Council of Wales Creative Wales Award. In the 2016 New Year Honours he was awarded MBE for services to music in Wales.
Find out more about Michael here.
MATTHEW RICHARDSON, DIRECTOR
Matthew Richardson was born in England. He trained and worked in theatre in New Zealand before returning to the UK. Scottish Opera engagements: Ghost Patrol (also for Music Theatre Wales– world premiere), Rigoletto, Five:15 2010, The Tales of Hoffmann, Jenůfa.
Operatic engagements include: Poet and Prophetess by Mats Larsson Gothe (NorrlandsOperan Sweden, Cape Town); Macbeth (Malmö); Turandot, The Cunning Little Vixen, Fortunato, A Midsummer Night‘s Dream (NorrlandsOperan); Boris Godunov, Rigoletto (New Zealand Opera); The Marriage of Figaro (BBC Television); L’altra Euridice by Jonathan Dove, Ariadne by Elena Langer (Almeida Opera); Oedipus by Qu Xiao Song (Folkoperan Stockholm); Line of Terror by Ian McQueen (Almeida Festival); Faust, Macbeth, Eis Thanaton by John Tavener (Birmingham Opera Company); Apollo and Daphne, Rodelinda, Euridice (Batignano Italy).
PETER EÖTVÖS, Composer
Peter Eötvös is one of the most exciting and theatrical composers at work today. He has a back catalogue of 10 operatic works, many of which are performed around the world though only three have been seen in the UK. We attended the world premiere of The Golden Dragon in 2014 and were thrilled by the vitality and virtuosity of the score and the joyous theatricality of the piece. For our new production, Eötvös has created a new English language version, including some exciting re-working of his original score.
Philip Glass, Composer
The phrases ‘cult following’ and ‘contemporary classical composer’ rarely appear in the same sentence, but Philip Glass is a case in point.
One of the world’s most popular living composers he is acclaimed for his operas, symphonies, film scores, compositions for his own ensemble, and collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie. He has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times and garnered a wide and hugely loyal fan base along the way.
Born in Baltimore in 1937, Philip Glass discovered music in his father’s radio repair shop. In addition to servicing radios, Ben Glass carried a line of records and, when certain ones sold poorly, he would take them home and play them for his three children, trying to discover why they didn’t appeal to customers. These happened to be recordings of the great chamber works, and the future composer rapidly became familiar with Beethoven quartets, Schubert sonatas, Shostakovich symphonies and other music then considered “offbeat.” It was not until he was in his upper teens that Glass began to encounter more “standard” classics.
The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” His music is based on the repetition of brief, elegant melodic fragments that weave in and out like an aural tapestry. In his music, the listener is “immersed in a sort of sonic weather that surrounds, twists, turns, develops”.
There is nothing “minimalist” about his output. In the past 25 years alone he has composed over 20 operas, eight symphonies, six concertos, string quartets, film scores, and a growing body of work for solo piano and organ.
Among his best known works are the operas Einstein on the Beach, The Voyage and Satyagraha (the acclaimed ENO production was a sell-out) and the film scores Koyaanisqati, The Thin Blue Line, Notes on a Scandal, The Hours (winner of a BAFTA) and The Truman Show which won a Golden Globe Award.
Christopher Hampton, Composer
Christopher Hampton is a British playwright, screen writer, film director and producer.
He is best known for his play based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the film version Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and more recently, the screenplay for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement. As well as this he has an extraordinary catalogue of adaptations, libretti, translations, TV and movie scripts, film production and original plays to his name.
Christopher became involved in theatre while studying French and German at Oxford University, and wrote a play in his first year. The Royal Court’s subsequent production was so successful that it transferred to the Comedy Theatre while he was still a student, making him the youngest writer ever to have a play performed in the West End - a record which still stands. He said at the time that he also hoped to become the oldest writer to have a play in the West End, an ambition he has yet to achieve.
His plays, musicals and translations have so far garnered four Tony Awards, three Olivier Awards, four Evening Standard Awards and the New York Theatre Critics’ Circle Award; prizes for his film and television work include an Oscar, two BAFTAs, a Writers’ Guild of America Award, the Prix Italia, a Special Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Hollywood Screenwriter of the Year, and The Collateral Award at the Venice Film Festival for Best Literary Adaptation.
Christopher Hampton and Philip Glass have worked together before: Glass wrote the score for 1996 film adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, written and directed by Hampton, whilst Hampton wrote librettos for Glass’s opera Waiting for the Barbarians (2005), based on the novel by J M Coetzee and for Appomattox, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War (2007), a revised version of which was presented by the National Opera in Washington D.C. in 2015.