CoDi Opera: Following a series of intensive workshops with composer Rob Fokkens and writer/dramaturg Sophie Rashbrook, six composers created their own scenario, libretto and music – a single aria each, performed by the fearless Sarah Dacey (soprano) and Chris Williams (piano). The results are powerful.
Bethan Morgan-Williams: SHILLY SHALLY
Shilly Shally, for soprano and piano, realises a scenario in which a performance is already in motion, but the singer appears not to realise she is a part of it. Despite recognising the props and paraphernalia of stage performance, she takes time to appreciate that she is expected to play a role within it. For reasons unknown, she struggles to decipher the precise nature of this role. This fresh and imaginative music explores the imagined barrier between singer and instrumentalist in music-drama performance in an inventive and comical way. From the outset, both seem unable to work out their relationship with one another, which is somewhat fractious. Once the singer begins to accept that she is playing a part, she becomes more accommodating towards the pianist, creating the illusion that it is the pianist who becomes more aware of her emotional needs, beginning to anticipate her next musical step. Whereas it is the pianist’s persistence and willingness to make the performance work that gradually draws an acceptable level of emotional collaboration from the initially unknowing participant.
Jasper Dommett: ALEXANDER... WHY?
Melissa, devastated by her partner Alexander abandoning her, sets on a quest of self-discovery. Over the course of the scene she contemplates on her dependency to Alexander and questions its relevance. Feeling alone, Melissa explores the nature around her and in the 9 months which pass, conjures up images of three seasons reflecting on their meaning to her emotional state and development. By the end of the scene, we see Melissa blossom into a strong independent person who realises she doesn’t need Alexander to be the best version of herself.
Eloise Gynn: THE MERMAID OF ZENNOR
The Mermaid of Zennor is a Cornish folk tale from the village where I grew up, commemorated in the church by a medieval bench carving of a woman with long flowing hair and a fish tail. For these two opening scenes the story is told from the mermaid’s perspective.
Scene 1: The mermaid Morveren is sitting on a rock, between land and sea, combing her hair. She finds herself alone, washed up in an unfamiliar cove, torn from her family by a storm and comforted by the sound of a beautiful voice on the wind. But the storm and the voice have gone and she is frightened. She speaks of her deep connection to the ocean and her loneliness. Yearning to hear the voice again, she imagines how they will sing together.
Scene 2: Morveren hears the voice again. Compelled to find the singer, she decides to leave the sea behind. She makes a dress out of seaweed and pearls to disguise her form and with great effort, makes her way up the river to the church.
Rebecca Horrox: PUHPOWEE (from Shiro)
The Mycelial mother SHIRO cradles the forest underworld with her invisible and infinite hyphae fronds. An infinite shapeshifter and alchemic magus she travels through her midnight underworld via her millions of ghostly fronds. Tiny fingers weave remedies and poisons to journey along the most perfect forest-metabolic highway. Blooming as a beautiful mushroom one day she finds herself overawed at a young stag she spies, falling for his swiftness, lightness and gaiety. Angered at her unfamiliar feelings of weakness and fear she vows to take revenge. Whether her unrealised feelings of love will counter the feelings of resentment is an unknown.
Using psilocybin to tame the wild fawn Shiro transforms into a large sculptural mushroom bloom the shape of the deep larynx of the fawn and releases spores tricking the fawn into thinking Shiro is a doe. Lured by her scent the fawn accidentally inhales her psychedelic spores.
Spending a warm summer afternoon intoxicated together Shiro is a doe, free and born of light. The enlightened young stag Pan is able to communicate with all the living beings of the forest through Shiro’s shared consciousness. Together they are as one, enlivened by the intertwining spoils of the underworld and highest energetic realms.
Unbeknown to them both a hunter spots them in the forest and fires a shot at the fawn. Startled, he runs away into the depths of the forest, the magical connection broken. Grief stricken, Shiro sweeps across the forest, her myriad network pulsing through the earth. Eventually, she finds her fawn injured in the undergrowth and weaves an intricate shawl, enshrining his injured flesh with a new translucent skin. Staunching the blood flow Shiro herself enters his body. Her fronds gently enclose around his heart and organs protecting him from any future harm. To look at this immortal new King of the forest you would only guess his new found synergy from the silver lychen growing on his fur and the polyphonic song he sings at the end of every summer.
Shiro has transformed into a huge glistening, pulsing, fruiting body of a mycelium mushroom, the shape of the larynx of a red deer; the only known species to share a vocal trait with humans, the descended larynx. With clashing feelings of pride for whom she is and yearning for whom she isn’t, she lures the unsuspecting creature to her mossy knoll.
Gareth Olubumni Hughes: WOVEN FROM THE WILDERNESS
In this scene from my opera Woven from the Wilderness, singer Sarah Dacey enacts a two-character dialogue between Essence and Innocence (based on Rhagnell and Blodeuwedd, from Welsh mythology), where Innocence goes on to narrate to Essence the bizarre, magical circumstances that led to her conjuring from flowers and oak.
Ethnie Foulkes: I HAVE ASKED GOD
I Have Asked God depicts a woman outcast from society, forced to live in a state of abstraction and denial due to significant past trauma. As the piece develops, three levels of her emotive and cognitive state become evident, as more of her story is unveiled. These levels are sporadically interspersed as “episodes” and are characterised by differing musical thematic devices. The piece opens with the chaotic, disowned and alone state of mind. This is followed by a poetic explanation of her experiences, where she depicts her grief in a manner that still allows her distance from the memory, which eventually gives way to the rawest and most vulnerable emotional expression. As this rawness and pain begins to envelop her, she is pushed mentally away, back into abstraction and avoidance. The piece is designed to show how society often fails individuals due to circumstance and dismisses them as “crazy”.