Term Two – Lab Project Three (by Margaret Perry)

Our collaboration with ENO was an exciting opportunity to peek into the world of writing for opera.

This consisted of two sessions, one with composer-librettist partnership Tansy Davis and Nick Drake and Natasha Freedman, the Head of ENO Bayliss, and a second session with a small company of singers and musicians.

In the first session, we heard about how Tansy and Nick collaborated to create Between Worlds, a modern opera about the events of 9/11. It was great to see the long piece of paper on which they drew the progression of the music and story from start to finish in an early brainstorming session – an idea that I plan to steal to apply to my own work! What they came up with was very evocative of the opera they created, the final product, and also of the creative process that got them there. It was interesting as well to note that collaboration from day one between composer and librettist is very rare – usually the librettist comes second to the composer and is brought on board later in the process, with the concept originating often almost solely from the composer. It would be much more exciting to work on an opera the way Tansy and Nick did. We also heard about the Jerwood Opera Writing Programme at Aldeburgh Music, which is a residency programme designed to bring inexperienced writers, musicians and composers together to create operas, moving away from the more traditional model of opera-making towards a more exciting collaborative process to create modern opera. At the end of this session, we were asked to submit a two-page libretto to ENO.

In the second session, four of these librettos were chosen – (mine, Rachel’s, Victoria’s and Cat’s) and the assembled singers and musicians along with Tansy and Nick improvised some musical scores for them! This was an amazing experience for me as it allowed me to see that the libretto I wrote for my opera was beginning to suggest the kind of music I had imagined for it in my head. It was great to see it on its feet. Our collaboration with ENO has really opened my eyes to the creative possibilities of opera. As a form of dramatic writing that is heightened, intense and very close to poetry, in my opinion, it really appeals to me as a genre. I hope to finish my opera, which is an adaptation of a book by Clarice Lispector called The Hour of The Star, at some point in the future.

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