a chamber opera in eleven scenes for seven singers and nine instrumentalists (2018)
Words by Selma Dimitrijevic after a short story by Robert Silverberg.
Commissioned by Snape Maltings for The Aldeburgh Festival. Research and development of the opera has been generously supported by Arts Council England, Snape Maltings, The Nicholas Boas Charitable Trust, The Royal Northern College of Music and Christoph and Marion Trestler. Emily Howard has been supported by PRS Foundation’s Composers’ Fund.
World première: Nicholas Morris (The Invisible), Anna Dennis (The Other Invisible), Anne Mason (Mother / Judge), Peter Savidge (Father / Brothel Owner), Caryl Hughes (Sister), Daniel Norman and Nathan Vale (Guards), Richard Baker (conductor), Dan Ayling (director), Ana Inés Jabares-Pita (designer), Sally Ferguson (lighting designer), Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Britten Studio, Snape, UK, 8th June 2018
"eclectic; avant-garde and spectral … plenty to chew over and to raise hopes for Howard’s future work
Pastel-perfect hell … Howard confidently and consistently makes her music run hot and cold, and it’s a discomforting, intriguing listen … ambitious, experimental, and leaving us plenty to ponder."
"The best of the opera comes whenever Howard’s music ventures into new and strange territory, as she explores Silverberg’s unnervingly dislocated world … it gets under the skin – a step into the future in Aldeburgh’s venerable tradition"
"Howard’s menacing use of percussion and grainy-textured instrumental writing, variously monochrome and lush, capture the atmosphere. Her evocative score embraces other composers: a lute song by John Dowland, sung in a brothel scene in which pleasure and pain are played out with clinical horror, and the opening of the trio Soave il Vento, from Mozart’s Così fan Tutte. In Howard’s reworking, it shifts to a noodling, candy-sweet marimba-dominated melody, representing a world of “warmth”. Cacti thrive and a couple indulge themselves in “bagels, cookies, muffins and cupcakes, lemon and poppy seed, toffee and blueberry or double choc-chip”. Try singing that."
Oddly compelling … Howard’s idiom has a cool confidence and clarity of its own"
"Emily Howard’s imaginative score ensures that this zeitgeist work is entirely her own"
"Silverberg’s concept of a time when any emotion is outlawed was brought to vivid musical life … it has a Kafkaesque spookiness about it and should travel well if taken up elsewhere."
Chamber Opera in one act. An Aldeburgh Festival commission and world premiere