Owen Wingrave: cast and team arrive at Snape

Three years after Jonathan Reekie picked up the phone to director Neil Bartlett to say he’d had an idea, the cast and creative team of Britten’s Owen Wingrave have assembled here at Snape to create a new production for the same space in which the piece was originally brought to life 44 years ago.

The Wingrave cast brings together singers like Susan Bullock and Jonathan Summers who have been appearing at the world’s leading opera houses for many years alongside young singers Ross Ramgobin, Isaiah Bell, Samantha Crawford and Catherine Backhouse, most of whom have recently joined the Britten–Pears Programme.

For most of the young singers, this is their first ever visit to Aldeburgh Music and the day started with a tour of the site. They arrived at the team get-together pretty taken aback by the Concert Hall and the landscape and then we all settled down to listen to Neil set the scene for the next six weeks.

Neil Bartlett welcomes the cast and crew of Owen Wingrave

‘With all the poppies and sepia and WWI memorabilia this year, everyone is going to need some space to think about what it really means to be 100 years on from the war which was meant to end all wars but didn’t. And that’s what I want us to give audiences. I don’t want to “deliver” a pacifist message – I want to give people the space to think.’

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40 minutes later, Neil finished showing us the final slide of the production model and we shared a collective shiver of anticipation. Although Owen Wingrave is known as a ‘pacifist’ opera, it is also a brilliant ghost story, and Neil’s production looks as though it will be a chilling, disturbing evocation of a family with serious skeletons in its closet and its members’ inescapable fate.