A new opera for Newbury
“It’s not every day you get asked to write an opera,” says Newbury composer Edward Lambert; “which is a good job, because the challenge is huge!
He has, however, written 13 to date and is currently writing a new work specially designed for Kennet Opera which will perform it in the fall.
Opera has come a long way since it was “invented” in Italy over 400 years ago. While at first it was the preserve of a wealthy elite, grand opera soon spread to public theaters throughout Italy and beyond. Since it brings together music and song, drama and poetry, decor and spectacle, the opera has many followers. Kennet Opera was founded in 1994 to bring opera to Newbury and give local singers and musicians the chance to take part.
“Most of my operas have been short and small-scale,” Ed explains, “just to cut costs. The world of opera has evolved over time, becoming much more relevant, inclusive and diverse in recent years.”
The new work is called Swellfellow the Tyrant and is based on a play by the poet Shelley inspired by the political upheavals of 1820. The establishment, reeling from nationwide unrest, sided with the king George IV in his battle with his wife, Queen Caroline. , whom he wanted to divorce. She, on the contrary, became a leading figure of social reformers.
Shelley’s play satirizes these events, drawing inspiration from Greek drama, pantomime and commedia dell’arte. It has plenty of choruses depicting the downtrodden working class, and aside from the lazy, portly king and triumphant queen, there are also squalid ministers, rambunctious parliamentarians, and stalking paparazzi — the story sounds eerily familiar. There’s a featured appearance for a female Minotaur, so overall it looks like there’s going to be a lot of fun in this new job. 2022 marks the bicentenary of Shelley’s death.
Kennet Opera President Jim Mitchell said: “We are very pleased to be part of this innovative project to create an original work for our company and we look forward to starting rehearsals next week.
Edward Lambert conducts Swellfellow the Tyrant on November 17, 18 and 19 at Arlington Arts.
Kennet Opera welcomes new members, contact [email protected]