rough for opera #9

Sideshows | programme note and biogs


  Leo Geyer music

Martin Kratz libretto

  Presented by Constella Ballet & Orchestrain collaboration with Khymerikal

  Leo Geyer conductor

Rachel Maby mezzo soprano

Sara Hall clarinet

Philip Sharp piano

Tim Rathbone violin

Michael Newman cello

  Sebestian Freeburn costume

Billie Mckenzie

Alice Potter

Chiara Beebe

  Roll up, roll up for the award-winning Sideshows! Feast your eyes on this jazz-inspired opera spectacular. Proudly presenting our very own Dancing Bear, mystical Palm Reader, explosive Fire-eater and more!

  The piece began as a song-cycle which we have now expanded to create a through-composed theatrical/operatic work with dance. The text draws on the intense vibrancy of the Victorian carnival scene, showcasing outrageous characters in witty and bizarre portrayals of their lives. The music explores the boundaries between classical music and jazz with jazz influenced harmony, limping grooves and wild improvisation. Similarly the dance employs the fundamentals of classical ballet technique but experiment and warp it to bring the freakish characters to life. 

  Tonight we will be performing a slightly shortened version of Sideshows without dance, but we will be performing the complete piece at the Tête à Tête Opera Festival on the 9th and 10th of August at King’s Place. So if you like what you see, we look forward to seeing you then!

                                                                                               Leo Geyer is a 22-year-old London born composer and conductor. Leo studied on the Joint Course at Manchester University and the RNCM with Dr. David Horne and Mark Heron. Leo’s work has been performed by professional ensembles in the US, Austria and across the UK. Recent projects include works for the BBC Singers, Opera North and the Manchester Camerata. Leo holds conducting positions with the Settle Orchestra, Khymerikal and is the the Artistic Director of Constella Ballet & Orchestra. Leo will be starting work in September as an assistant/cover conductor for the Royal Ballet.

  Martin Kratz is an associate lecturer in English at Manchester Metropolitan University. His poetry has been widely published in magazines including The Rialto, Magma, The Interpreter’s House and The Moth. He is coeditor Mount London: Ascents in the Vertical City from Penned in the Margins.

The Constella Orchestra was founded in 2011 and following critical acclaim, the company expanded to include ballet in 2013. Constella’s upcoming productions include performances at King’s Place, Sadler’s Wells and the Bloomsbury Theatre. Sideshows is produced in collaboration with Khymerikal, a new contemporary chamber ensemble.

The Doll Behind the Curtain | programme note and biogs

The Doll Behind the Curtain

  Amir Mahyar Tafreshipourmusic

Dominic Power libretto

  after the story of the same name by Sadegh Hedayat


  The Doll Behind the Curtain is a modern operatic stage adaptation of Sadegh Hedayat’s short story of the same title. It is an intense, imaginative story of a young man’s fascination for a silent statue behind a boutique window. Captivated by her mysterious beauty, he carries the statue back to Iran, where his infatuation and inner conflict leads him to an act which will destroy his own life and the life of his fiancée who has struggled to compete with her silent rival.

  06.07.14 Composer Amir Mahyar Tareshipour and librettist Dominic Power will give a presentation about their collaboration The Doll Behind the Curtain exploring the piece and the creative challenges they encountered in adapting Sadegh Hedayat’s story for the opera stage.

  Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour (b. Tehran 1974) received his BMus from the Academy of Music in Esbjerg, Denmark in piano and pedagogy in 2001. In 2003 he gained a BMus in composition at Trinity College of Music and in 2004 his MA in composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. In 2003 he won first prize at the Biennial Competition for New Music at Tehran University for his solo piano. In the same year he was awarded a Silver Medal for outstanding achievement at Trinity College of Music, presented by the Duke of Kent.  His works have been commissioned and performed by soloists, ensembles and orchestras including: Nancy Ruffer, Darragh Morgan, Mary Dullea,Tomoko Sugavara,     Gabriella Dal’Olio, Ceren Necipoglu, Maya Sapone, Patricia Kostek,John Anderson, Zoe MartLew, Sioned williams, Gahrn ensemble, Ani String Quartet,Southwark wind Ensemble, Dartington summer Festival, Aldeburgh Music Festival, Saint Petersburg New Music Festival, Award of Honour by Counterpoint Competition in New York, University of Victoria clarinet ensemble and Anadolu Symphony Orchestra. In 2005 he was commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra to compose a harp concerto ‘A Persian Reflection’ under the baton of Pascal Rophé in 2006 in London, featured on BBC Radio 3 in a special programme of music from Persia. He is now writing an opera The Doll Behind the Curtain based on a short story by the famous Persian writer Sadegh Hedayat with libretto by Dominic Power. Currently he is working on a PhD in composition at Brunel University in London under the supervision of Prof. Christopher Fox and Prof. Peter Wiegold. A CD is of his work is available from Hermes Records.

Dominic Power began writing for radio while reading English Literature at Royal Holloway College, University of London and two original plays, Visiting Time and Comics Code were produced on Radio 4 shortly after he graduated. His stage play, Gillfins was produced at the Old Red Lion theatre, London (Directed by Andrew Hilton), and his stage play Tales of the Undead was produced by Show of Strength in Bristol, at the Hen and Chicken Theatre (Directed by Andrew Hilton, subsequently transferring to the Warehouse Theatre, Croydon. Tales of the Undead was also published by Favell & Marsden. He also has prepared a version of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, which was produced for Show of Strength in Bristol in 1992 and was later produced at the Tobacco Factory in 2001. He was writer/consultant on the Timewatch documentary Buffalo Bill (1993, BBC 2). He has also written criticism and journalism, including stints reviewing crime fiction for the London Evening Standard and The Fiction Magazine as well as contributing essays on film composers for The International Dictionary of Films & Filmmakers. In 2011 he contributed essays on film for Cinema The Whole Story (Edited by Philip Kemp, Thames and Hudson).

  Sadegh Hedayat, the foremost short story writer of Iran, was born in 1903. He was of a highly educated aristocratic family. After finishing his primary education, he was sent to a French school to study French. He received his secondary education there, and was sent to Europe on a government scholarship to study dentistry. He shortly gave up dentistry for engineering, and engineering for the study of pre-Islamic languages and ancient culture of Iran.

  In Europe, Hedayat was exposed to world literature, especially European literature, and read the works of Kafka, Poe, and Dostoevski. In his solitude, he became extremely self-conscious and devoted a great deal of his time to the problem of life and death. He studied the works of Rainer Maria Rilke and was impressed by Rilke’s adoration of death so immensely that he wrote his own commentary on Death in 1927. He even tried to commit suicide in the same year by drowning himself in the river Marne, but he was rescued. He wrote collections of short stories and a novella, The Blind Owl, which is regarded as Hedayat’s masterpiece and has been translated in many languages. It took him almost a decade to prepare this novella which he finally published in 1937 in India. It could not be published inside Iran until 1941.

Hedayat’s language is both literary and scholarly. In addition to his novella and short stories, he was the first person to conduct serious and methodical research on the folklore of Iran. He also studied the ancient Iranian languages and wrote essays about archaelogy, anthropology and liguistics. Satire was also Hedayat’s language. In his fiction, he criticizes the social and political problems of his society – criticism which is very often expressed in satirical form*.

Hedayat gradually improved his writing skill and developed a talent for philosophical, social, and eventually political themes. His career reached its peak in the late 1930s when he finished preparing his novella. However, in the 1940s, it was obvious that he could not produce anything substantial. He became increasingly frustrated to the point that abusive criticism replaced artistic criticism in his works. His inability to create the literary works his public expected, drove him deeper into depression. He finally decided to leave Iran and go back to Paris, where he had started his career. However, postwar Paris was not the Paris he had experienced in the 1920s.

He made his last decision. He attempted suicide again; this time he succeeded, on April 4, 1951. At the time of his death, he had become recognized as the foremost modern prose author of Iran.


The Equivocal Harriet Bowdler | programme note and biogs

The Equivocal Harriet Bowdler (A Bowdlerised Melodrama)

  Alex Paxton music and libretto

  Marc Hajjar conductor                                                     

Laura Bowler director                                                      

Jack Lawrence Jones baritone                                                

Louise Wilcox actor                                                                       

  Sara Cubasari violin

Tom Issacs cello

Joe Bronstien viola

Ilona Suomalainen accordion

Joy Boole bass clarinet

Owen Dawson sackbut

JJ Wheeler drums

The Family Shakespeare was a popular collection of expurgated Shakespeare plays first published in 1807 under the name of Thomas Bowdler. It was in-fact the creation of his sister Harriet Bowdler, who could not have published openly because it would have been lurid to imagine that a lady could have computed the innuendo and “immoral” passages of Shakespeare in order to erase them.

Harriet also wrote, 50 editions of “Sermons on the Doctrines and Duties of Christianity” under the name “anon” for which the bishop of London offered a clergyman’s wage in his diocese.

The text of The Equivocal Harriet Bowdler is derived of the fragments from a bowdlerised Shakespeare play, a bowdlerised Bowdler preface to a bowdlerised Shakespeare play and an original prologue bowdlerising both Shakespeare and Bowdler.

  The Equivocal Harriet Bowdler has been recorded and performed as a concert work. This is the piece’s first staged outing.

  Alex Paxton is a prolific composer, orchestrator and jazz musician. His works include concert music, vocal music, music theatre, musical theatre, music for theatre, jazz, music for film and music for amateur musicians.

  He has recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music (Bmus(hons) – 1stclass) where he studied with Christopher Austin, Phill Cashian, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Gary Carpenter and Pete Churchill. Whilst at RAM he was awarded the Evan Senior Scholarship and the J E West Prize.

  In 2013 he was the winner of the Ludlow English Song Composers Competition (Finizi Friends) and next year he has attained a place at the RCM as a scholar for 2014/2015 with further funding from the Henry Wood Trust & Music Students’ Hostel Trust. Much of his work is especially interested in prose, theatre and equivocation.

  Future projects include an opera based on short stories and diary extracts from Virginia Woolf’s oeuvre. Alex is currently working as an assistant orchestrator for a Broadway musical.

  Joe Bronstein has recently completed his postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music, studying the viola with Martin Outram. Prior to this, he achieved a first class honours degree in Mathematics from the University of Manchester. Joe is the violist of the Aurora Trio, holders of a Chamber Music Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Music this year, and has a busy freelance career involving work with orchestras, chamber ensembles and solo performances – he will be performing Berlioz Harold in Italy twice early next year. Joe has taken part in training schemes with the London Sinfonietta and the Britten Sinfonia, and travelled to Japan for the Pacific Music Festival 2013 as a result of a nomination by the Academy. Current projects include the arrangement of a suite of dances for the Aurora Trio from Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet, and the establishment a jazz string quartet. Joe’s long term ambition is to have a full time playing career combining orchestral and chamber music. He plays a fine modern viola by James Stephenson.

  Sara Cubarsi The Catalan violinist Sara Cubarsi has recently won the Spanish “El Primer Palau 2013” competition and the Prize of the radio channel Catalunya Música. Future engagements include the Spanish première of Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto no.2 with the National Chamber Orchestra of Andorra and the world première of Pulsar Phigurae by Raffaele Grimaldi. Based in London, Sara is a scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music on the Master of Music in Research and Performance course under Tomotada Soh with a grant from the Catalan government (OSIC). She was an undergraduate at the Academy under Remus Azoitei and graduated with the Beare Bow Prize 2013 for the highest ranking final recital. She previously studied at the Purcell School of Music under the “Music and Dance Excellence” scholarship from the UK goverment with Carmel Kaine. She has given recitals at venues such as the El Palau de la Música Catalana and the Ateneu in Barcelona, the Middle Temple Hall and the Purcell Room in London, the Georges Enescu Museum in Bucharest, and also has participated in various concert cycles including Eaton Square Concert Series, Canterbury Festival and “Cicle de Joves Intèrprets”. She has also been a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra. and has toured with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra Academy 2013 and Orquestra de Cadaqués among others. Sara plays on a violin by David Bagué and a bow by Derek Wilson.

  Owen Dawson Originally from Suffolk, Owen now lives and studies in London. He is a BMus student at the Royal Academy of Music where he studies with Gordon Campbell and Mark Nightingale.  Owen has been a member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra for the past 2 years, which has taken him around the country to perform in many different venues and alongside many different musicians. In addition to this, Owen has also been see performing with Bellowhead, Clare Teal’s big band and with artists such as Jamie Cullum and Jacqui Dankworth in venues including Ronnie Scott’s, the 606 club and the Forge.

  As well as being a trombonist Owen is also an active composer and pianist, writing music for his own quintet and performing on piano for various functions and engagements.

  Owen has recently received the Larry Adler award from the Academy

    Jack Lawrence Jones is looking forward to postgraduate vocal studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, starting in September. At Cambridge, Jack sung with the Choir of Clare College, first under Tim Brown and then Graham Ross. Recent operatic roles include Tarqinius in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and Pirate King in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Jack is passionate about modern music and performance, recently playing the title role in Clive, a new opera by Ben Ashby. He’s also, like everyone, making an app. Jack studies with Gary Coward.

  JJ Wheeler Having graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire with a First Class Honours BMus Degree in Jazz, JJ currently resides in London where he studies at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music under the guidance of many of the world’s finest musicians and educators including Pete Churchill, Django Bates, Stan Sulzman, Martin France, Paul Clarvis, Ian Thomas and Nick Smart.

  An early starter, JJ picked up the sticks aged 8 developing a natural talent and passion for the drum kit fueled by lessons with session musician Mark Claydon (Liberty X, Gizelle Smith, Jezebel Sextet etc), before a family relocation to Yorkshire led to classical percussion training under Cherry Bratkowski and further drum kit study with Paul Smith.

  By 12, the young drummer was already building up an extensive CV of performances in a range of styles, with anything between 40-150 gigs per year in the 10 years following. This wealth of experience gathered in the formative years of his career have helped turn JJ into one of the country’s most musical and versatile drummers around.

  JJ has received many awards over his early career in both performance and compositional fields, including becoming a rare double beneficiary of the Countess of Munster Trust scholarship for Musical Excellence in both 2011 and 2013.

  A recording and touring bandleader of several projects and sideman in many more, JJ has performed with the likes of NYJO, Stan Tracey, Jean Toussaint, Scott Stroman and Celine Dion and has played venues including Wembley Stadium, The Royal Albert Hall, Pizza Express Jazz Club (Soho), The Reebok Arena, York Racecourse and the Hippodrome (Birmingham).

  JJ has also appeared on prime-time TV shows on BBC 1 as well as live broadcasts, recorded sessions and studio appearances on various national and regional radio stations.

  Through his studies JJ has had the honour of working with and appearing in workshops with such world-renowned musicians as Jeff Ballard, Django Bates, Dave Douglas, Dave Holland, Mark Turner, Mike Janisch and Phil Robson