Miranda Sinani and Lee Bisset in Sublimation

The Lady from The Sea
Claire Booth as Ellida and Benedict Nelson as 'The Stranger’
Photo by Richard Campbell.

In summer 2015 I begin development on Vanora: the Opera with Cateran’s Common Wealth and Company Chordelia, under a grant from the Foyle Foundation. The creative team currently includes John Harris, Jessica Cottis and Kally Lloyd-Jones, with myself as librettist

My first collaboration was with Nick Fells on Sublimation, a short opera commissioned by Scottish Opera as part of its Five:15 series. In the opera, a woman is haunted by her traumatic past and unable to separate it from the present. As she is overwhelmed by memories her story takes a mythical turn, inspired by the myth of Dryope. Sublimation was performed in 2010 in Elphinstone Hall, Aberdeen, the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and Oran Mor in Glasgow. It was then chosen to travel to South Africa for a production by Cape Town Opera in the Baxter Theatre, Rondebosch.

In 2012 The Lady from the Sea, composed by Craig Armstrong and based on the play by Ibsen, had its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in the King’s Theatre. The opera was commissioned by Scottish Opera for its 50th anniversary season and directed by Harry Fehr. It was later performed at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow.

Ellida, who is the daughter of a lighthouse-keeper, lives a narrow life with a husband several years her senior. She is full of longing for the sea and for freedom, and the arrival of a mysterious stranger creates a storm that threatens to submerge the whole family. He offers an escape from the stifling world she inhabits, and Ellida must decide whether to do her duty or answer the call of the sea.

The Lady from the Sea won a Herald Angel Award and is being recorded in 2015 for commercial release on CD

It was an absolute pleasure to get an insight into the work of such brilliant singers and dedicated opera professionals. For a full list of the wonderful cast and creative team please click here and for more images click here.

Selected reviews:

"If you don't know Ibsen, but get Austen, you'll love it, although Zoë Strachan's libretto is more explicit and emotionally direct than anything either of them wrote. As a concise, lucid and poetic text it is exemplary and the narrative she, (Craig) Armstrong, and choreographer Kally Lloyd-Jones have put together with director Harry Fehr could hardly be bettered."
The Herald *****

"Armstrong’s soundscape is minimal yet lush, its tonal language at the start becoming atonal as heroine Ellida’s mind unravels. A “mermaid” trapped in the fjords, pining for the sea, she is torn between her safe, dependable husband and a former love who arrives unannounced. Strachan’s libretto boils down the wordy original and deftly takes eight characters through an emotional journey in 70 minutes."
The Independent ***

"Armstrong has a strong libretto to work with – Zoë Strachan’s taut compression of Henrik Ibsen’s psychologically stifling play of the same name – which, by the very nature of the exercise, is punchy, high-energy narrative. From that, the composer has devised a score that is intoxicating in the images it amplifies – a dense minimalist soundscape that hangs like a dark cloud, obstinately stagnant in tonality (like the heroine Ellida’s mental entrapment), and magically transformed to match the unclouded resolution. Ever the film composer."
The Scotsman ***

'Claire Booth is glowingly eloquent in the title role, and two notably good tenors, Mark Milhofer and Alexander Sprague, stand out among a strong supporting cast. Derek Clark conducts wholeheartedly.'
The Daily Telegraph ***

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