Jasdeep Singh Degun at RNCM + Opera North comes to The Lowry
Opera North bring a feast for opera lovers to The Lowry this March + the Opera North Orchestra will be performing with Sitar virtuoso Jasdeep Singh Degun at the Royal Northern College of Music with his new concerto, ARYA.
Jasdeep Singh Degun – ARYA
RNCM – Wednesday 11th March
JASDEEP SINGH DEGUN ON ARYA, HIS NEW SITAR CONCERTO FOR THE ORCHESTRA OF OPERA NORTH
Leeds-based sitarist and composer Jasdeep Singh Degun is joined by the Orchestra of Opera North at the Royal Northern College of Music for a performance of his new sitar concerto, Arya. As he prepares to unveil his brand new work, he looks forward to realising his long-held ambition to bring traditional Indian music to a western symphony orchestra – and explains why he’s a very good driver.
“Arya is a Sanskrit word meaning noble, or precious – as well as being a girl’s name, which has been popularised now in the west by Arya Stark in Game of Thrones. But I came up with it before that!
“I’d always been interested in writing a concerto for sitar and orchestra. I’ve written for small ensembles and larger Indian classical orchestras, but never for a full symphony orchestra, so Arya has been a steep learning curve for me. Working with the Orchestra of Opera North and their brilliant arranger Danny Saleeb has been a collaborative process, and it’s given me the tools to get my vision across completely.
“As an Indian classical musician who was born and brought up in the UK, I’m a product of my surroundings as well as my training. I think all composers are like sponges, they’ll soak up their environments. So Arya isn’t a western classical concerto, and it’s not an Indian classical piece; it’s simply the music that I want to present to the world.
“In Indian classical music we have a limited concept of harmony and there aren’t any key changes; there’s one drone that doesn’t shift for the whole concert. And ours is an oral tradition, mostly improvised: we don’t have sheets of paper in front of us. We’re trained to listen to and repeat very long phrases, to learn the intricacies of the raag (traditional Indian modes, like western scales) without any notation to help us. Indian classical musicians have very good memories: when I’m driving I’m great with directions. I only need to drive somewhere once and I can find my way back very easily!
“It’s completely the opposite with a western classical orchestra, which is trained to perform exactly what the composer has written down on the stave. And within a western concerto, harmony is a key feature of creativity. How do you bring these two traditions into balance together without compromising either the spontaneity of the raag or the creative drive of the western orchestra?
“Danny and I have worked hard to give the ensemble what they need in terms of a clearly defined and very detailed score, whilst leaving enough room for the sitarist to feel like they’re not being constricted by a piece of paper. I’ve built in space for some improvisation, but for a sitar player there’s always a lot of scope for that anyway around the given notes. The sitar is all about the melody, these characteristic, voice-like embellishments that you get by bending the strings.
“At the beginning of the piece the sitar is introduced to the Orchestra, and we follow the instrument like a diamond, a shining light, through this new world of western music.
“The second movement is faster, and the orchestra starts to take over: it’s new territory for the sitar. Then in the third movement the two worlds come together and find common ground.
“I really dislike the word fusion. Arya isn’t about defying genres, or breaking out of the shackles of my tradition. I’ve never felt like that: Indian classical music is my first love, and that’s what I want to pass on to new audiences. I care about music and I care about people, and Arya is about coming together and playing, whilst maintaining the integrity and the intensity of both disciplines.
“I’m looking forward to bringing Arya to Manchester – I’ve performed there many times in the past with tabla maestro Kousic Sen, with the Hallé Orchestra, and I’m currently taking part in Psappha’s Composing For… scheme – so it’s a city with very fond associations for me.”
To complete the programme, the Orchestra of Opera North will be joined by the full force of the company’s Chorus for a series of exquisite excerpts from operas including Madama Butterfly, La traviata and The Magic Flute – making for a unique evening of sounds from east and west.
Tickets, priced at £15.00 and £18.00 (concessions available), can be booked online at rncm.co.uk, or at Box Office on 0161 907 5555.
From Broadway to Britten: OPERA NORTH at The Lowry
Tuesday 10th March – Saturday 14th March – The Lowry
Simmering tensions, madcap capers and a spooky ghost story make up Opera North’s compelling winter season which comes to The Lowry Salford this March.
Opera North has long championed the work of Kurt Weill and the company’s first opera for 2020 is a new production of Street Scene, the work he considered to be his masterpiece. Picking up on the theme of exile from last season’s The Greek Passion, Street Scene turns the spotlight on a New York tenement building on a stiflingly hot summer’s day as the residents struggle with their individual desires, dreams and disappointments. Giselle Allen and Robert Hayward take on the roles of Anna and Frank Maurrant, alongside many members of the Chorus of Opera North, including Gillene Butterfield as their daughter, Rose, and Alex Banfield as her lover, Sam.
With operatic arias rubbing shoulders with music from Broadway, it is no surprise that the opera won Best Original Score at the very first Tony awards in 1947. Conducting the piece will be James Holmes, one of the world’s leading interpreters of the composer’s work, while the director is Matthew Eberhardt, whose production of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti was a highlight of Opera North’s The Little Greats season in 2017.
Next we have Jo Davies’ witty interpretation of The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart’s joyous farce of mistaken identity and misunderstanding. We join Figaro on his wedding day, but trouble clouds the horizon. His master, Count Almaviva, plans to seduce Susanna, Figaro’s bride-to-be. Meanwhile the heartbroken Countess finds herself the object of the page-boy Cherubino’s infatuation and, to top it all off, if Figaro cannot repay a debt to the housekeeper Marcellina, he will have to marry her instead!
In this fast-paced farce, Phillip Rhodes sings the title role, with Fflur Wyn as Susanna, Quirijn de Lang as Count Almaviva and Máire Flavin as the Countess. Mozart’s sublime score is conducted by Opera North’s Principal Guest Conductor, Antony Hermus, with the high-spirited action taking place against the backdrop of Leslie Travers’ timeless designs.
Benjamin Britten’s nail-biting ghost story and Alessandro Talevi’s production of The Turn of the Screw chilled many a spine when it was first performed in 2010. Based on the novella by Henry James, this tale of strange happenings in a remote country house reaches new levels of terror and claustrophobia with Britten’s disturbingly beautiful music ratcheting up the tension at each twist and turn of the plot.
Nicholas Watts is the spectral Peter Quint, while Sarah Tynan returns to Opera North to play the Governess appointed to take charge of the orphaned Flora and Miles. Are they really at the mercy of strange and menacing spirits or is it all in her troubled mind? Leo McFall conducts.
Street Scene – Kurt Weill
New production – Sung in English – Friday 13th March
On a stiflingly hot summer’s day in New York, a family is pushed to breaking point. Frank is angry at a world that’s changing too fast, his daughter Rose longs for a better life away from the squalor of the city, and his unhappy wife Anna struggles with a terrible secret that could tear them all apart… As the heat builds, the tension erupts into violence and their lives are changed forever.
Weill’s richly-varied score is as diverse as the community he portrays, blending the European operatic tradition with the idiom of golden-age Broadway. Soaring arias and duets rub shoulders with jazz and the jitterbug, and Puccini shakes hands with Gershwin. With numbers such as ‘Lonely House’ and ‘Moon-faced, Starry-eyed’, it’s little wonder that Street Scene was awarded Best Original Score at the very first Tony Awards in 1947.
With a cast led by Giselle Allen and Robert Hayward and featuring many members of the Chorus of Opera North, this new production of Weill’s great American opera is conducted by one of the world’s leading interpreters of the composer, James Holmes. The director is Matthew Eberhardt, whose production of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti was a highlight of Opera North’s The Little Greats season in 2017.
The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Revival production – Sung in English Tuesday 10th / Thursday 12th / Saturday 14th March
It’s Figaro’s wedding day, and trouble clouds the horizon. His master, Count Almaviva, plans to seduce Susanna, Figaro’s bride-to-be. Meanwhile the heartbroken Countess finds herself the object of the page-boy Cherubino’s infatuation and to top it all off, if Figaro cannot repay a debt to the housekeeper Marcellina, he’ll have to marry her instead!
The Marriage of Figaro is a joyous farce of mistaken identities and misunderstandings, bursting at the seams with invention and wit in Jo Davies’ hit 2015 production. Mozart’s sublime music bubbles along with comedic high spirits, conveying all the delight and pain of love and the agony and ecstasy of desire.
Antony Hermus (Tosca, 2018) returns to conduct a cast including Phillip Rhodes as Figaro, Fflur Wyn as Susanna, Quirijn de Lang as Count Almaviva and Máire Flavin as the Countess.
Benjamin Britten – The Turn of the Screw
Sung in English – Wednesday 11th March
In a remote country house, a newly-appointed governess fights to protect two children from menacing spirits. But are these apparitions real, or the product of her troubled imagination? And what terrible evil occurred before the governess’s arrival?
Benjamin Britten’s edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller is based on the chilling ghost story by Henry James. The theme of The Turn of the Screw – of innocence abused and corrupted – had a particular fascination for Britten, and he clothes this dark material in music of disturbing beauty that winds up the tension to breaking point.
Sarah Tynan (Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare, 2012) returns to the Company to make her role debut in what is probably Britten’s most intriguing and complex soprano part. This gripping production is conducted by Leo McFall (The Snow Maiden, 2017), and directed by Alessandro Talevi in Madeleine Boyd’s 1920s-period designs.