Friday 1 November 2019

Aldeburgh, Switzerland, Hammersmith and Paris: Russell Hepplewhite's opera for children with three premieres this Autumn

Hepplewhite: Laika the Spacedog - English Touring Opera
Hepplewhite: Laika the Spacedog - English Touring Opera
I first came across in 2013 Russell Hepplewhite's operas when English Touring Opera (ETO) performed the award-winning Laika the Spacedog [see my review] and since then Hepplewhite has written a number of other operas for ETO to perform to children and families. 

This Autumn three more of Hepplewhite's pieces are being premiered, and this time it is the children themselves who are performing. Jubilee Opera premiere The Casket Girl and The History Express at the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh, and W11 Opera will premiere at EVER YOUNG at POSK Theatre in Hammersmith. Whilst Laika the Spacedog is back in orbit in the UK thanks to ETO, and the opera will be making appearances in Switzerland and Paris.

The Casket Girl, with a libretto by Helen Eastman, is based a real event which took place on the bank of the River Alde in Suffolk in 2013. The remains of a casket of personal treasures were discovered in the Anglo-Saxon grave of a young woman at a location called Barber’s Point. Russell Hepplewhite’s score takes the audience from a modern day archaeological dig to the ancient world of a mysterious maiden, unlocking the secrets of her life and death. The opera performed by Jubilee Opera on 22 and 23 November 2019, at Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, conducted by Jack Ridley and directed by Susan Moore (who was in fact in Laika the Spacedog all those years ago), with soprano Sofia Troncoso and baritone Matthew Kellett stars a cast of over thirty children from Suffolk. Preceding The Casket Girl is a new song cycle The History Express by Russell Hepplewhite also with texts by Helen Eastman. The cycle takes the idea of archaeology, and follows a timeline, ‘digging back’ through history, and will feature over fifty children from local primary schools.

Further details and tickets from the Snape Maltings website.

EVER YOUNG, with a libretto by Helen Eastman, is set in the secret laboratory of a research institute, where a genius young scientist is about to announce the discovery of an amazing new drug that will change the world. She has invented a new drug that can stop human ageing, everyone wants the anti-aging treatment but a small group of teenagers aren’t so sure… How does a world work if no one grows old or dies? The opera explores the consequences of what can happen when a youth-obsessed society goes too far

EVER YOUNG is performed by W11 Opera at POSK Theatre, Hammersmith on 7 and 8 December 2019. The production is directed by Tim Yealland (formed Head of Education at ETO and librettist of Laika the Spacedog).

Full details and tickets from the W11 Opera website.

Laika the Spacedog has been revived by ETO and is currently touring the UK, see ETO's website for details. The work is being performed by Nouvel Opera Fribourg, Switzerland on 24 November 2019 as Laika - le chien de l'Espace, conducted by Stephanie Gurga and directed by Anne Schwaller. and the production travels to the Opera Comique in Paris in April 2020.

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