The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Paul Guest Headshot

The Future of Opera is in Your Hands...

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Opera can a difficult art at the best of times not least in its composition: But one question must constantly occur: Will the audience like it?

The Royal Opera House's Exposure series throws new light on contemporary work, unveiling the snippets of hot projects from young composers and operatic creatives in the intimate and informal setting of the Linbury Studio Theatre. Produced by ROH2, Exposure provides a unique opportunity to watch snapshots of new opera and includes the chance to meet the composers, choreographers, writers, dancers and singers afterwards to discuss their work over a drink.

Exposure: Opera is set to reveal the best new writing by up and coming operatic composers. Head of Opera Development, John Lloyd Davis, at ROH2 told me how it works:

"Fragments of new scenes are presented alongside slices of fully completed works, world premieres and commissions in development, there are about seventeen pieces all together. It is an imformal night, think cabaret and it offers a great insight into the work we do with creative artists at different stages in their careers"

He continues, "It's very important to recognise this talent pool of composers so we treat the night a bit like a showcase where the creatives can discuss and network after the performance"

On the eve of the premiere of his latest opera, Two Boys, I spoke to American Composer Nico Muhly about the importance of work-shopping opera: "Workshops for opera are as important as having a good libretto and good music. So much of the collaborative craft is achieved in run-throughs in front of a critical (but not professional!) audience. Having the opportunity to work on the piece as a whole - not just microscopic and specific details - is crucial to the future of the form."

Exposure: Opera, that opened 16 February and runs until the 18 February, offers the chance to see a range of exciting contemporary work in a programme of short pieces from emerging composers. The event also includes the chance to meet the composers, writers and singers afterwards to chat about their work over a drink, whilst enjoying post-show entertainment.

Ahead of tonight's opening here are three of the works that you could hear:

Icarus - based on the Greek myth - explores the psychological resonances of the tale, above that of simply 'flying too close to the sun'. Composer Michael Zev Gordon and librettist Stephen Plaice will give a glimpse of the work with an intriguing extract, bringing to the Linbury Studio the tale of master craftsman Daedalus, his son Icarus and nephew Talus.

Written by Emily Howard, who has been commissioned to produce a piece for the Cultural Olympiad and who I featured in my column as a young artist to look out for in 2012 in MUSO Magazine; Ada Sketches II is a short dramatic vocal work to be sung by distinguished mezzo Lore Lixenberg imagining that the Analytical Engine (a forerunner of computer programming) might compose music. The composer studied Mathematics and Computation at Oxford University and often draws on physics as her inspiration.

Tom Randle's The Sculptor sees the tenor going back to his compositional roots after carving a strong reputation as a singer with the likes of ENO, Glyndebourne, WNO and The Royal Opera. A supernatural operatic thriller, The Sculptor traces the spectacular rise and tragic fall of X, a young and supremely talented sculptor. Gripped by the malevolent spirit of his former muse, the young man is driven to madness and murder. We hope that the extract, performed as part of Exposure: Opera, will whet appetites for the completed work to come.

Other composers include Hannah Kendall and Raymond Yiu. A mix bag of works to hear in what will be an ultimately thrilling evening of compositional discovery. The future of opera is in your hands...

Exposure Opera runs at the Linbury Studio theatre, downstairs at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden from tonight until Saturday 18 February - www.roh.org.uk