When writing Daughter of the Sea, I first wrote the libretto (that’s the little book, or the words) based on my novel, and the composer Richard Chew then set it to music. It was performed in July 2004 at the Crucible Theatre Sheffield and was a Music in the Round production, with a cast and orchestra of professional singers, The Lindsays, and local children.
The opera has also been performed in the Coming Out Festival in Adelaide, Australia.
In the same year I was commissioned by Welsh National Opera (WNO) to write a concert opera – that is, a small-scale opera with minimal set and movement. They asked me to use the music of four composers; Dukas, Saint-Saens, Liadov and Julian Philips, and I wrote a libretto called The Magician’s Cat. It was toured in England and Wales with a very large orchestra (60 piece!) and a very small cast – two singers! Children from different schools sang as well, and also helped to create the back-projection of images that flowed throughout the production. There was a new tour of this work in 2008.
Wild Cat is my third opera. It was commissioned by WNO Max in November 2006, to have its first tour in Wales in April and May 2007. It is a chamber opera (which means it has a small cast of singers and musicians, so it can play in small theatres).
Wild Cat tells the story of a small town that is haunted by a prowling beast. One of the children, Catrin, desperately wants to see it, but a young man Mark is sent to kill it. On the way, he meets his childhood self and the Spirit of Wild Things, and he begins to understand how important wildness is to all our lives. He learns that we must love the wildness that is within us and around us.
Wild Cat is the third part of the WNO MAX Earth, Sea and Sky trilogy, and lasts 45 minutes. There are three soloists from WNO: Mark Evans, Elisabeth Toye and Claire Turner, and two soloists and choruses are chosen from the primary schools located in each of the 6 venues. The composer is Julian Philips, who partly composed the music for the Magician’s Cat concert opera, and the director is Nik Ashton.
I was asked to write the libretto for Wild Cat in November 2006, for initial performance in 2007. The libretto is the story, which is all sung. Writing a libretto is a mixture of writing a play and writing a poem, and the only way I know of writing one is to sing it! Of course my music would be nothing like the wonderful music of the composer, but singing it helps me to give the story speech patterns that aren’t like prose, and to give the lines metre and, where I think it needs it, rhyme. When I send it to the composer it’s all laid out in songs (arias), choruses (for the choir or group of singers) and recitative, which is the narrative sung links. Then he asks me to add verses, reduce bits, develop bits, etc as the ‘real music’ which is in his head begins to develop. It’s a wonderfully exciting way of working and I feel really privileged to be asked to write for such a talented composer and for such excellent singers and musicians.
Wild Cat was part of a trilogy which won the Royal Phiharmonic Award for Music in Education.