I was very proud to be part of Pegasus Opera’s Unpacked and Reloaded event last year (where has the time gone?!)
Pegasus is the UK’s leading professional multiracial touring opera company, based in Brixton, south London. They have a long track record of staging high quality productions and developing works that appeal to both traditional opera audiences and those unfamiliar with opera.
In 2016, I was asked to pitch an idea for a new opera libretto, not something I’d done before. After immersing myself in the world of opera stories, themes, characters – and of course, music – I came up with an initial idea, which I pitched, and then fleshed out with Lloyd Newton of Pegasus. I’ve worked on the story solidly since then, with numerous story drafts, workshops and lots and lots of listening to music from Purcell to Mozart, Puccini and many more.
The aim of my story – Let The Music In – is to develop a new audience for opera, particularly from diverse sectors of the community, while marrying some contemporary musical idioms to the traditional in an original contemporary narrative.
Working with the opera libretto form
I wanted to write a story that fits with Pegasus’ vision of appealing to all audiences, and also brings opera to as wide ranging audience as possible through a compelling, universal story. Having watched, read and re-read many opera librettos, one (obvious) thing stands out – they are incredibly dramatic, dealing mainly in the biggest themes of love, death, betrayal and hope. The voices of the singers, and the chorus underscore the emotional depth of the story – in short, it’s a completely different way to convey a narrative. Opera certainly wears its heart on its sleeve!
As a screenwriter and playwright, I wasn’t used to writing in such broad themes, so it took a change of gear for me to get the story where I wanted it. After working the story into shape, several scenes of Let The Music In were staged in front of a live audience as part of the launch of Pegasus’ new suite of productions in the summer.
Breaking a larger story into key scenes for the evening’s showcase was a tricky proposition, so using the narrator was key – in the full performance, this function would be taken by the chorus.
The scenes were performed by the powerhouse voices of Ronald Samm, Anne Fridal and Bernard Abervandana, with Christopher Rodriguez as the narrator, accompanied by Waiyin Lee, and I must thank them all for giving everything on the evening!
We’re now developing Let The Music In for a full production in the near future.