Author Archives: Jessica Cowper

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Creating a chamber opera – Emily Howard, Selma Dimitrijevic and Dan Ayling

The new chamber opera by Emily Howard and Selma Dimitrijevic will be a contemporary adaption of a science fiction classic.

 

Aldeburgh Music Residency Part 1 – September 2016

Howard, Dimitrijevic and director Dan Ayling recently completed the first of two research and development residencies at Aldeburgh Music, supported by Arts Council England. It was an opportunity for each artist to develop their practical understanding of the relationship between composer, librettist and director, the three creatives at the heart of exciting, new contemporary opera.

 

Emily Howard – Composer

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“The Aldeburgh residency afforded Selma, Dan and I an invaluable period of intense focus together. I’ve worked with Selma since our New Music 20×12 mini-opera Zátopek! and we’ve definitely become familiar – even comfortable – with each other’s working methods. Dan has shaken us up brilliantly and constructively by challenging and enhancing our ideas from the outset. We’re all strong-minded and our three-way conversation has enabled us to discuss the many layers of this opera from very different perspectives. It has been hugely beneficial for me to examine in detail what matters most to each artist and I’ve been especially excited by our lengthy conversations concerning structure, time and place. In retrospect, I’m surprised at how much we achieved in a relatively short period of time interspersed with beautiful walks in and around Snape Maltings and an extremely bracing early morning swim in the sea! Although perhaps this special environment with its rich operatic history helped to harness our collective creative energies – in any case I had a great time and I’m looking forward to returning in January.”

 

Selma Dimitrijevic – Writer

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“As a writer, I am usually looking for time alone, away from any distractions, to try to realise and externalise all that is in my head. On this occasion though, I am not writing only what is in my head but I am also trying to put down on paper a world that is hugely influenced by what Emily and Dan, composer and director of the project, have imagined themselves. Having these three days with Emily and Dan, basically locked up in a room (in the best possible way!) was a huge help in this. The residency has given us the time and space to define and expose our early thoughts, and to challenge and hear each other in ways that “a meeting in town” will never be able to.”

 

Dan Ayling – Director

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“The first stage of our Aldeburgh Residency was such an illuminating experience because I’ve never participated before in the early stages of an opera’s creation and it was brilliant to have this opportunity. Exploring the relationship between composer, writer and director was very exciting too because being involved this early in the process means I can understand Emily’s music and Selma’s text more deeply, which gives my practice greater resonance, and enables me to present the opera in the most enlightened way. I’ve also understood the importance of allowing different perspectives room to breathe and develop without having to reach a definitive conclusion, as well as the art of being truly present – really listening to the people you’re with, not just hearing the sound they make. Finally, being at Snape Maltings is such a special thing. The landscape is by turns uplifting, overwhelming, terrifying and inspiring. The sense of space – those big skies – and the distinct lack of Wi-Fi (!) means you are cocooned in a wonderfully freeing bubble – perfect for creative thinking.”

 

Aldeburgh Music Residency Part 2 – January 2017

In January 2017, the team will return for a second Aldeburgh residency to work with EXAUDI singers Lucy Goddard and Simon Whitely, and Paris-based duo scapegoat – saxophonist Joshua Hyde and percussionist Noam Bierstone. Together, they will investigate the sonic world of the main character as well as exploring some possible staging ideas. The Residency will culminate in an Aldeburgh Music Open Session where short sections of the opera will be presented followed by an opportunity for feedback.