Climbing Mount Merapi

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Work on my new opera The Firework Maker's Daughter is - from my side at least - very nearly complete. We will have a short orchestral read-through with musicians from Opera North in October, which is very helpful - but other than that, I will do my best not to spend hours dwelling and sweating over every last detail AGAIN. Work now gets handed over to everyone else - director John Fulljames and designer Dick Bird (who designed The Opera Group's Enchanted Pig among many others) are pulling ideas together and have been working with Steve Tiplady and Sally Todd of Indefinite Articles to dream up the concept for the show - the way of presenting it. There will definitely be some shadows, quite a lot of shadows!

In the new year the singers will begin rehearsing and the tour will start in March. Details of the tour are finally being knocked into place. It's a pretty big one, which includes Watford Palace Theatre and some of Opera North's regular touring venues. From 3-13 April it will come to the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; and from 3-12 May it will be in New York at the New Victory Theatre on 42nd street, just round the corner from Time Square. Keep up with the latest tour info on The Opera Group's page here

One of the things I'm most delighted about is that the fact that two of my favourite ensembles will be performing - Chroma in the UK, and Metropolis Ensemble in the US. Working with friends takes a lot of the pressure out of the situation which is good. Because there is a certain pressure in all this. Put it this way - you spend about three years working on something; then, although there have been workshops and there will be rehearsals, the first time you can really begin to judge how successful it's all been is at the dress rehearsal- literally a day or two before the premiere - that's the first time the show finally gets run with all the musicians and all the design in place. And by then of course it will be far too late to do anything about it!

I find I can't help comparing myself to Lila, the heroine of the opera. By which I don't mean to imply that I'm a head-strong young girl with pyrotechnic tendencies. But writing an opera can certainly be compared to the exhausting and near-impossible challenge Lila faces when she sets out to climb Mount Merapi to get her hands on the elusive 'Royal Sulphur', that secret ingredient all true Firework Makers must have. What's so touching in the story is that when Lila finally reaches the summit and meets the dreaded Fire-Fiend he just laughs at her and she leaves empty-handed, feeling the whole journey has been for nothing. This, to be quite frank, is how it often feels being an artist. I've climbed my mountain and faced my Fire-Fiend but for now all I have to show for those three years work is 500 sheets of paper with black dots on them. It's a curiously laughable state of affairs.



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