The Guildhall School presents the world premiere of Julian Philips’ The Tale of Januarie
The first opera to be written in Middle English, composed by the School’s Head of Composition Julian Philips with libretto by Writer in Residence Stephen Plaice.
Monday 27 February, Wednesday 1, Friday 3, Monday 6 March 2017, 7pm Silk Street Theatre
Julian Philips composer
Stephen Plaice librettist
Dominic Wheeler conductor
Martin Lloyd-Evans director
Dick Bird designer
Mark Jonathan lighting designer
The Guildhall School presents the world premiere of The Tale of Januarie, composed by the School’s Head of Composition Julian Philips with libretto by Writer in Residence Stephen Plaice. A comedy of love and age, the piece is based on Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale and is the first opera to be written in Middle English. Opening on 27 February for four performances, this is the first time an opera has been commissioned from within the School.
Januarie, a wealthy knight has reached old age and decides it is time for him to marry. He selects May, a young girl, to be the companion of his dotage, but his servant Damyan is quickly smitten by the new bride, and she with him. Despite Januarie’s controlling nature and occasional meddling from Persephone and Hades, the lovers must find a way to consummate their passion. The opera is sung in Middle English in order to enhance its authenticity but also to heighten the comedy. Given the ambiguity of accurate pronunciation of Middle English, Philips, Plaice and the singers will work closely with leading expert Professor Barry Windeatt, a Professorial Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and Philips’ personal tutor during his studies at Emmanuel College.
The opera is conducted by the School’s Head of Opera Dominic Wheeler with director Martin Lloyd-Evans, designer Dick Bird and singers drawn from the School’s Opera Course. The singers have followed the opera’s development from page to stage, a process reflecting the School’s MA in Opera Making and Writing Masters programme, delivered in association with the Royal Opera House, which allows composers and writers to focus on how new opera is created, developed and performed. The commission is another example of the School’s pioneering work nurturing opera talent of the future. The School also collaborates with The Royal Opera to offer a fully funded Doctoral Composer-in-Residence studentship over a three-year period. During this time, the composer researches and writes a major work, which is staged by The Royal Opera at the end of the residency.
Professor Julian Philips studied music at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and is one of Britain’s most versatile composers. His music has been performed across the world at major festivals and venues including the BBC Proms, Tanglewood Music Festival, Welsh National Opera, Glyndebourne and Wigmore Hall, by international artists including Gerald Finley, Dawn Upshaw, Sir Thomas Allen, the Vertavo String Quartet and BBC orchestras. With a particular affinity for music for voice, Philips has been critically acclaimed for song settings of Emily Dickinson, e e cummings, Dylan Thomas and Langston Hughes among others and is currently writing a new song cycle for James Gilchrist based on the poetry of John Clare for 2016. His choral music is similarly celebrated and is included in the Choirbook for the Queen (Church Music) as well as being commissioned for the BBC Proms (Sorrowfull Songes). As Glyndebourne Opera’s first ever Composer-in-Residence, Philips completed two chamber operas in 2006-9.Philips is currently developing plans for a new music theatre piece on the life of poet John Clare for Mahogany Opera Group. A vital force in education, Philips is the Head of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama where he was made Honorary Fellow in 2007. He was responsible for the creation of both a new Masters Programme in Opera-Making & Writing and a Doctoral Composer-in-Residence scheme in association with the Royal Opera House.
Stephen Plaice began his theatrical career in the mid-1970s at the National Theatre. Between 1987 and 2004 he was Writer-in-Residence at Lewes Prison, where he invited in a music theatre workshop team from Glyndebourne, leading to a longstanding relationship with the opera house. He was the librettist for the Glyndebourne children’s opera Misper and the youth opera Zoë by composer John Lunn, as well as three further main-stage operas. A frequent collaborator with Sir Harrison Birtwistle, he wrote the libretto for the composer's chamber opera The Io Passion and the text for his oratorio Angel Fighter, premiered at the Bach Festival in Leipzig in 2010. In 2009, BBC Radio 4 broadcast his radio series The Romantic Road. He has also worked extensively in opera education, both in Britain and Germany, for over twenty years. In 2013 his opera Imago, composed by Orlando Gough, was staged by Glyndebourne. It won the RPS Award for Learning and Participation. He was appointed Writer in Residence for the Guildhall School’s MA in Opera Making and Writing programme offered in association with The Royal Opera in 2014.
Tickets: £25 (£15 concessions), available from 6 January 2017 from the Barbican Box Office: 020 7638 8891 www.barbican.org.uk
This project is supported by funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), through the ‘Cross-Language Dynamics’ Project, led by the University of Manchester.