rough for opera #8

THE ISLAND | programme note and biogs

The Island

  Phil Poppy (music and libretto)

  Derek Isaac Sgt. Dwight Toussaint                    

Robert Clayton Sgt. Robert Wray


The Haywood Sisters                                            

Kathryn Ryan                                                        

Georgie Aimee Wooderson                                

Lauren Woolf

Sonnie Beckett

  The Island Brass Ensemble

Richard Avison trombone

Caroline Hall trombone

Sue Samuelsson trombone

Sue Lynch saxophone

Adrian Northover saxophone

Glen Gordon trumpet

Tim Walmsley drums

  Phil Poppy MD/piano


  The Island is a 60 minute opera for 3 voices, chorus, brass band, electric guitar and pre-recorded soundscape. Dreams and expectations of paradise are explored in 3 interweaving stories of displacement connected by one idyllic island. An approaching storm provides a brooding rhythm creating a psychological portrait of Dwight Toussaint – a Moral, Welfare and Recreation officer working at a military base. The libretto has been adapted from a stage play written by Phil Poppy which was inspired by the political and physical geography of Diego Garcia: a coral atoll in the Central Indian Ocean leased by the British to the U.S. as a military base. The stories of American service personnel and the native islanders (British citizens) controversially evicted from Garcia between 1967-73 provide the inspiration for the story. The music incorporates a pre-recorded atmospheric soundscape and an exploration of marching brass band music and US army cadence – call and response – performed by the chorus. 

  Phil Poppy is a writer, music producer and film maker. He studied clarinet with John Brightwell, saxophone with Randy Colville and jazz improvisation with Howard Riley at Goldsmiths College. As a saxophonist he has performed with numerous ensembles including tours of Canada and France with the Happy End big band and UK, France and Ireland with Siobhan Davies Dance Company.

  He is cofounder of recording group TALA QUINTET fusing Indian classical music with dance beats. Their first release ‘Na Da’ secured worldwide distribution and radio play through Island Records. He has arranged music for a marching band playing at the Den – Millwall FC reviving the traditions of marching bands at football matches and also produced various soundtracks for short films. Most recently he wrote the libretto and music for a short opera – NANCY’S LAMENT which premiered at the Tete a Tete Opera Festival at the Riverside Studios last summer.

  Robert Clayton and Derek Isaac have been fronting the Rawhides band for 25 years. This group of outstanding musicians are widely regarded as one of the top entertaining outfits performing on the function circuit today.  They also host a monthly blues club called Rawmeet located at a circular theatre / dancehall space at the Bedford Pub in Balham.


  Robert Clayton is the founder of Legend Theatre – consistently producing high quality entertaining and educational drama to tour to primary schools and theatres throughout Britain.

  The Haywood Sisters are a vintage style vocal group made up of  Kathryn Ryan, Georgi Aimee Wooderson, Lauren Woolf and Sonnie Beckett. Their experience ranges from performing in West End musicals, providing jingles for jazz FM and singing live on BBC radio. Venues include Ronnie Scott’s, The Hong Kong Arts Centre and Wimbledon Stadium. Their musical style is influenced by the Boswell and Andrew Sisters including 1920’s / 30’s jazz, 40’s wartime favourites, 50’s Swing, 60’S Motown and the occasional modern pop song.

PREDICTABILITY | programme note and biogs


  Alexander Campkin (music)

Elaine Ruth White (libretto)

  Max Pappenhiem (director)

  Presented by Future Opera

  Rhys Bowden  Him

Danae Eleni  Her

  Valerie Welbanks recorded cello

Felicity Hayward recorded voice

The Oxbridge Singers additional recorded voices

  Alexander Campkin conductor


  Predictability questions the roles of fate and of statistics when forming relationships. New lovers – an artist and a mathematician – are struggling with these competing ideologies as their relationship, their love and their passion develops.  Following the workings of the famous Russian mathematician Markov, the woman uses statistics to model the real-world processes and complexities involved as two people come together. Markov’s transition matrix describes the particular probabilities of events. On the other hand, ‘the artist’s palette sets the certain free’.

  In spite of their differing concepts to romance, they both struggle with the unknown as this couple discovers the merits and failings – and try to reach understanding and compromise – with each approach.

  Alexander Campkin is a young British composer and conductor. He has received thirty seven professional commissions from organisations including the Royal Opera House, the BBC Performing Arts Fund and the Swedish Arts Council. His work has been performed and broadcast in over thirty countries and been featured on 14 CDs.

  Elaine Ruth White is a playwright and librettist.  She has worked with English Touring Opera as the writer on their RPS award winning production ‘One Day, Two Dawns’ (2009) and was also commissioned by The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter to write a fresh libretto for Mozart’s The Magic Flute (2010). In 2012, Elaine was a finalist for ENO’s Mini Opera project.  Original stage plays include ‘Hammering Near Glass’ (2014 – long listed for the Bruntwood Prize) and the political satire, ‘Devon and Demelza’  (2012).

      Future Opera has produced fully staged contemporary chamber operas for Tete-a-Tete: The Opera Festival (Riverside Studios) and the Royal Academy of Music. At the heart of Future Opera is a passionate belief that opera has the ability to transform lives, and it is with this belief that each production is approached from the very first stages. Collaboration has been crucial for the nurturing of creative energies.


ZOE TROPE | programme note and biogs


  Michael Betteridge (music)                              

Thomas Ellison (libretto)                                                                       

  Lucilla Graham Old Zoe/Zoe’s Voice

Jenny Carson Girl 1

Fiona Hymns Girl 2/Jenny

Rosie Middleton Young Zoe                             

James Fisher Judge/Priest

Chris Brett Zoe’s Husband/Newsreader

Dan Chappell Piano

  Lucia Cox (director)                    

Gordon Hodges (production assistant)          

Zoe Trope supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

 Thanks to costume and stage management at the Royal Northern College of Music for providing various props and costumes; thanks to Oliver Till for accompanying some of our rehearsals; thanks to Eric Northey for providing rehearsal space.

 Zoe Trope

Set in a dystopian future where online declaration of one’s most personal secrets is binding by law, this new opera explores the life of Zoe through a series of vignettes and questions the idea of identity in a modern world.”  In tonight’s performance we will be presenting the first four scenes of the opera in full and then two subsequent scenes in part (one without music, i.e. just the libretto, and sung moments from the final scene).  The work originated as a single aria (the first scene) as part of a scheme the composer and the librettist were on with Music Theatre Wales, in association with Opera North and the Royal Northern College of Music. 

    Thanks to costume and stage management at the Royal Northern College of Music for providing various props and costumes; thanks to Oliver Till for accompanying some of our rehearsals; thanks to Eric Northey for providing rehearsal space.

  Zoe Trope supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

  Michael Betteridge is a composer and choral conductor based in Manchester having studied at both University of Manchester and Royal Northern College of Music.  His music has been performed across the UK in venues such as the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and LSO St Luke’s in London, and has been performed/workshopped by performers such as Manchester Camerata, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers, soprano Sarah Leonard and pianist Clare Hammond.  He is musical director of New Space Productions and co-founder and co-director of Collectives and Curiosities.  He also worked for the learning departments for organisations such as London Symphony Orchestra, Opera North and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.  2014 will see several performances of his work in the USA and a world premiere in Spain.

Chris Brett is an actor and comedy writer for more information see:

    Jenny Carson recently attained her MMus degree in Solo Performance at RNCM, where she performed the roles of Lucy (Paradise Moscow) and Emmie (Albert Herring); worked with conductors Sir Mark Elder and Christian Curnyn; and will take on the role of Jenny in the college’s forthcoming production of Sondheim’s Company.

  Daniel Chappell is a Salford-based pianist and composer studying at Manchester University, and a frequent collaborator and performer with the new-music ensemble Vaganza.

  Lucia Cox is a Manchester Theatre Award nominated writer, director and producer.

  Dorset-born soprano Fiona Hymns trained at the RNCM and is excited to be joining the Buxton Festival Opera chorus this summer, as well as discovering her inner bitch for this production of Zoe Trope.

  Thomas Ellison is a writer, poet and literature graduate from the University of Leeds and the University of Bristol.

  James Fisher is currently a postgraduate student at the RNCM generously supported by the John Connell Award

  Lucilla Graham originated in Scotland, studied in Manchester, and is en route to London, via the year 2052. She has loved working on this piece, and will spend the summer singing in the chorus of Grange Park Opera.

  Rosie Middleton completed a Masters in Vocal and Opera Performance at the RNCM in September. She will return to Opera Holland Park this summer to play Victorian/Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and cover Wowkle/ La Fanciulla del West. She recently performed Pierrot Lunaire as part of the Southbank Centre’s The Rest is Noise festival.