|Opera: 'Don't Breathe a Word' (DBAW)|
(Click the button immediately below to hear a clip)
Synopsis A first foray into opera for Fraser and the second for composer Andrew Lovett. Collaboration on Don't Breathe a Word ( DBAW) followed the success of Andrew's first opera, Abraham on Trial. DBAW was originally designed as a chamber opera for eight voices, clarinet, saxophone, cello, percussion, keyboards and electronics. Dramatically it is the reverse of a classical tragedy; a flawed man finds he possesses a small, but stubborn, sliver of humanity, which brings about his ruin.
Based loosely on the experiences of the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, the opera follows the the adventures of Alex McCloud, newly appointed Ambassador to the former Soviet republic of Ushkent, a land-locked country in Central Asia, and the new darling of the West in it's 'War on Terror'. This flawed, but engaging, character believes himself to be in the very vanguard of Britain's new 'ethical foreign policy' and embraces his new posting with great enthusiasm. He is determined to get to know the country from the 'grass roots up'.
Within weeks he has begun an affair with a bargirl, and discovered that the country's ruling regime is involved in hideous human rights abuses against political prisoners. From this torture, the West is drawing intelligence. Unable to accept the advice of his Foreign Office superiors- that he should do nothing to upset Britain's ally- McCloud goes public- and quickly finds himself the subject of a ruinous scandal over entirely fabricated financial irregularities. In fighting to clear his name, McCloud upsets even more people- and the scandal of his affair mysteriously breaks in the British tabloids. He loses everything, or nearly everything. Declared innocent he nonetheless loses his family and any prospect of a diplomatic service in the future. He returns to see out the rest of his time by the Embassy swimming pool, accompanied only by the ghosts of those he has fought to defend, and the beautiful and still faithful, Salieva.
Current cast requirements A cast of eight singers is required : three sopranos, a counter tenor, as tenor, two baritones and a base baritone. Instruments required: Clarinet, saxophone, cello, percussion two keyboards and electronics
Production History Work on DBAW was facilitated, initially, by a Grant For the Arts from the Arts Council England East which was awarded to Fraser in February 2005. This enabled the libretto to be written, and for Andrew Lovett to begin a first draft of the score. Early drafts were workshopped with support from Aldeburgh Productions, prior to a showcase performance on Tuesday 9th May, 2005, supported by Colchester Arts Centre and Mercury Theatre Colchester. The showcase was performed by members of the Electronic Voice Theatre (Artistic Director, Frances Lynch) and directed for stage by Paul Bourne (Artistic Director of the Menagerie Theatre, Cambridge).
Alex McCloud...............................James Meek
Mrs McCloud................................Jenny Miller
Old Ambassador.........................Gwion Thomas
Deputy President.........................Andrew Gallacher
First Secretary.............................Julian Stocker
First Secretary's Wife..................Mary Philips
Professor/ Grandson...................David Sheppard
Anton Lukoszevieze- Cello (See picture immediately below- click to enlarge); Nancy Cooley- Keyboards Elaine Turnbull- Sound Projection
As a result of the success of the showcase production, Andrew was awarded an Arts Council Fellowship to go to the Banff Centre, Canada- a three month residency to further develop the score.
Followers of this site will know that Andrew Lovett's opera DBAW, for which Fraser contributed the libretto, has been a long time in development (see the Opera page via the hyperlink, or via our other website http://www.dontbreatheawordopera.com). Now, we can announce a real breakthrough, as the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, threw its hat into the ring and sponsored a week's workshop and showcase performance of extracts from the opera. This took place at The Linbury Studio in March 2010, and was followed by inclusion in the Opera House's 'Exposure' events in April 2010, and will be included again in the program for 2011.
Andrew Lovett Andrew was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied music at Cambridge University, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, and City University, London. He specialises in electroaccoustic composition, particularly combined with small groups of instruments or soloists. His work has been performed in Germany, France , Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Cuba, the USA and throughout the UK.
Abraham on Trial (2005) An opera for five singers, electroaccoustic music and digital video, was performed at the Junction Theatre, Cambridge by The Electric Voice Theatre, directed by Patrick Morris.
The Colour of Sadness (2003) for soprano, saxophone and electronics. Premiered by Damien Royannais and recorded by AM Publishing.
Unknown Terrors (2000) for cello, keyboard and electron. Premiered by Judith Mitchell and Clive Williamson and broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Voyage (1997) for ensemble and electroaccoustic music. It was performed by the London Sinfonietta, at the South Bank Centre, London, in April 1999, conducted by Martyn Brabbins
Theatre Credits (for Andrew Lovett) include: Correspondence (2008), Gaugleprixtown (2005), Two Into War (2004), Michelle and the Landlady (2001)
Fraser's View The aim of the project was to produce an all new British opera, with a plot which would connect with a contemporary audience. So many people have invested so much in this project - Anthony Roberts at Colchester Arts Centre, Aldeburgh Productions, the Banff Centre, Arts Council England East, Dee Evans at the Mercury Theatre, Electric Voice Theatre - the list goes on and on. This is before we get to the performers and musicians, composers and librettist.
Every week, it seems, someone in the opera-world is bemoaning the dearth of new, genuinely dramatic operas with innovative scores on subjects that connect with a contemporary audience. However, as anyone who works in this field knows, if you are not a very famous composer, it is fiendishly difficult to get anyone to invest the money, time and energy to push a new opera through to production.
Now, in 2010, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has recognised the value of the project and taken it into development (see News page). Revisit this site for details as they emerge.