pioneering and experimental...

February 2000

...the ENO studio

English National Opera’s General Director Nicholas Payne recently described the ENO Studio as “the company’s pioneering and experimental wing” - a fine phrase which well captures the purpose of our activities, but also throws down a challenge. Innovative performance, most of us can handle. New music we love, others loathe. But marry those to opera, the form currently regarded as the spoilt brat of the arts, snotty in its attitudes and profligate in its shopping habits, and you confront a high risk activity whose championship demands an unflinching passion.

The ENO Studio was conceived originally at an ENO-hosted forum at Dartington in 1989. Over the next four years, ENO presented a number of new work-associated events: works-in-progress and soundbite music theatre commissions. The present Studio was relaunched in 1995, a facility unique to the UK, to provide a permanent creative environment where composers and artists might collaborate to develop new opera and music theatre.

The start of 2000 marks exciting times. Mark-Anthony Turnage’s The Silver Tassie, currently on the brink of première, emerges from a two year Studio development process; these workshops and pre-rehearsals allowed the composer, along with librettist Amanda Holden, to test the effectiveness of their material, and to make changes to either text, tessitura or orchestration. Work has begun on David Sawer’s From Morning to Midnight, another ENO commission for the Coliseum for April 2001 - Sawer’s music, highly distinctive for its rhythmic energy and beautifully lucid orchestration, looks set to find brilliant resolution in Georg Kaiser’s spiky dark tale of provincial life. Martin Butler’s chamber opera A Better Place - an ENO Studio commission from 1997 - premières at Thames Festival in September - perhaps the first time that a new opera will reach an outdoor audience of thousands.

But large-scale opera apart, ENO Studio now demonstrates a grand expansion in its range of work. Presently, we develop work with 8 composers: from Oscar-winning film writer Stephen Warbeck to Maurizio Squillante, who composes exclusively with computer generated material, helping them to develop, along with librettists, directors, musicians and visual artists, a variety of creative collaborations.

A new ENO Studio series Studio Nights presents performances designed to complement the Coliseum’s programme, but to develop a wider audience. Using a mix of media, each show explores ideas behind the operas - the composers’ inspiration, a potent theme, a strand of text. The Silver Tassie Studio Night, at the Limelight Club, Shaftesbury Avenue on February 24, titled History’s Rhyme promises the extraordinary combination of Eleanor Shanley, traditional music diva with members of the Northern Irish community telling their poignant stories of loss. Jeremy Weller directs, virtuoso accordian player Luke Daniels directs the music. And on March 9, another innovation: All-in Opera - a day of video installations, masterclasses, works-in-progress and discussion brings together an international gathering to explore the creative process from the artists’ point of view.

So the Studio offers to composers time and space to grow, resources, and a vast network of contacts. And above all, it supports the pioneers and experimenters - those who take the risk, and embrace the new with passion.

Mary Miller, Head of the ENO Studio

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Event listings for this month


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