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Thinking with Opera / Walking Home

Explore the thrilling world of opera and its component parts in our new series of podcasts, produced as part of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds.

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Thinking with Opera 04: Simon Armitage and Gavin Bryars on Words and Music

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and composer Gavin Bryars in expansive conversation about their respective art forms, and what happens when they are brought together. Chaired by Dr Kimberly Campanello, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leeds, it’s a wide-ranging and warm conversation, illuminated by good humour and the two artists’ evident delight in discovering each other’s work in more detail. They discuss the pleasures and perils of crossing between the two disciplines, with reference to specific works by themselves and others. Excerpts from their recordings are woven throughout, including tracks by Armitage’s post rock/ambient outfit LYR, and Bryars’ extraordinary, influential 1971 work Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.

1hr 10mins

10 Mar 2021

Rank #1

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Thinking with Opera 03: Thomas Adès and Operas of Confinement

How do music, plot, staging, action, dance and performance combine to produce meaning for an opera audience? Taking a close look at Thomas Adès's The Tempest, Professor Edward Venn of the University of Leeds and choreographer and director Aletta Collins – who choreographed the opera's premiere in 2004 – explore the conversation between different elements in opera. They also consider the notions of confinement and restricted movement in all three of Adès's operas: The Tempest, Powder Her Face (1995), and The Exterminating Angel (2016), which take on a new significance in the COVID-era. Musical excerpts Overture from The Tempest: Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Thomas Adès, from the 2009 EMI release The Tempest ‘Five Fathoms Deep’ from The Tempest: Cyndia Sieden with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Thomas Adès, from the 2009 EMI release The Tempest Overture A Midsummer Night's Dream, London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado, from the 1985 Deutsche Grammophon release Mendelssohn: 5 Symphonies / 7 Overtures 'When I Am Laid In Earth' from rehearsals for Opera North’s 2013 production of Purcell's Dido & Aeneas. Pamela Helen Stephen with the Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Wyn Davies ‘Dov'è Minnie?’ from rehearsals for Opera North’s 2014 production of Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West. Bonaventura Bottone as Nick, Robert Hayward as Jack Rance and the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North conducted by Richard Farnes

50mins

13 Jan 2021

Rank #2

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The Making of As You Are

Follow cellist and composer Abel Selaocoe and his collaborators through the rehearsal and recording of As You Are, his soundwalk for Leeds, which opened in December 2020. Experienced through headphones on a 40-minute walk through central Leeds, As You Are is a major new Opera North commission for the South African-born musician, and sees him joined by the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North, and soloists from across Africa. Here Abel talks about his writing process, the many musical traditions from the African continent embedded within the piece, and his belief that music can open up a space for contemplation and refuge.

23mins

15 Dec 2020

Rank #3

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Dead 'n' Wake: Reset and Come Again

Turntablist and sound artist Nicole Raymond (DJ NikNak) and poet, playwright and literary activist Khadijah Ibrahiim uncover the roots of reggae, dub and sound system music in religion, ritual and culture, with the help of some classic songs, versions and dub plates from the Pressure Sounds catalogue. Woven throughout are excerpts from their collaboration during Opera North's Resonance workshop residencies in summer 2020, during which Nicole reworked recordings from Khadijah's audio archive, transforming them through collage, reverb, delay and scratching. From a Jamaican Rastafarian remembering Haile Selassie’s visit to the island to recordings of a Black British church choir, the finished series of sound works are rich in untold history and hidden culture. Opera North’s Resonance residency programme for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic artists is supported by PRS Foundation’s Talent Development Partner scheme. Original interviews and audio recordings made by Khadijah Ibrahiim during research funded by Arts Council England's Developing your Creative Practice programme.

59mins

11 Nov 2020

Rank #4

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Alice Zawadzki: My Boy of the Birds — Walking Home

The London-based vocalist, violinist and pianist’s piece is written for “that very special time of day that’s neither nighttime or daytime: that strange liminal, luminous place where the birds are singing and we’re on the precipice of something new”, she says. “The piece reflects all of the changes that we navigate with people close to us. There’s a tension between two keys, but there’s also a gentle pulsing all the way through which doesn’t change, and I suppose that’s the thing that you hold on to, a kind of rudder in these weird seas! I really hope that anybody listening to it will find beauty and consolation in it.” Walking Home is a series of sound journeys created during lockdown to be listened to on headphones whilst walking, for BBC Arts and Arts Council England’s Culture in Quarantine programme. Composed by Alice ZawadzkiVoice, violins, piano by Alice ZawadzkiElectric guitar and effects by Alex RothBass Moog by Alex KillpartrickRecorded, engineered and mixed by Alex KillpartrickMastered by Calum MalcolmProduced by Alice Zawadzki with additional production by Alex Killpartrick

15mins

13 Aug 2020

Rank #5

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Martin Green: A Place of Crisps and Pianos

In this sound walk, the accordionist, composer, and one-third of exploratory folk band Lau brings together field recordings, spoken word and the trumpet and tenor horn of Laura Jurd. “I’d been getting up earlier and earlier and enjoying that special period when it feels like there are very few people awake", he says. "I recorded a few walks at sunrise, one with my daughter, and the snippets of conversation that got caught became the starting point. I’d been yearning for ensemble music and I’d been very keen to find a project to do with Laura for a while – and the sound of the sun makes me think of brass”. Walking Home is a series of sound journeys created during lockdown, to be listened to on headphones whilst walking, for BBC Arts and Arts Council England’s Culture in Quarantine programme. Accordion, keyboards, words and ambient sound recordings by Martin Green Trumpet and tenor horn, improvisation by Laura Jurd Narration by Edie Green Mixed by Calum Malcolm Additional engineering by Cameron MalcolmBrass arrangements by Benjamin Woodgates

24mins

13 Aug 2020

Rank #6

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Maya Youssef: Silver Lining

Born and raised in Damascus, Maya is a virtuoso of the qanun, the Arabic zither. “When I was approached to take part in Walking Home,” she says, “the first thing that came to my mind was walking in nature, and the different lines of thought and feelings that stream through me. "Because of that, there are different voices in this piece, all of which the qanun performs. I know a lot of people are going through a lot of grief at the moment, and I wanted this music to give them a whisper of hope”. Walking Home is a series of sound journeys created during lockdown, to be listened to on headphones whilst walking, for BBC Arts and Arts Council England’s Culture in Quarantine programme. Composed by Maya Youssef Mixed and mastered by Calum Malcolm

13mins

13 Aug 2020

Rank #7

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Khyam Allami: Al-Mayasan

"I’ve spent the entirety of the lockdown alone in Berlin", says the Syrian-born Iraqi oud player and composer Khyam Allami. "Through it I’ve learned that we tend to forget how much our day to day interactions with people allow us to have a different perspective on what we do and how we think”. “I would like to encourage listeners to consider who you can see around you, and the environment that you’re experiencing, through the perspective of one of the other people that you have seen or encountered, on this short journey with me.” Walking Home is a series of sound journeys created to be listened to on headphones whilst walking. The five works were composed and recorded during lockdown for BBC Arts and Arts Council England’s Culture in Quarantine programme. Composed, performed, produced and mixed by Khyam Allami Mastered by Calum Malcolm

16mins

13 Aug 2020

Rank #8

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Abel Selaocoe: Ulibambe

The South African cellist and composer’s lockdown base in the Peak District inspired this work, which is intended to accompany a walk at the day’s end. “The title comes from a Zulu saying meaning ‘Hold the sun, so it may not set’”, he explains. “In this piece of music the phrase takes on a new meaning and becomes a way to soothe your worries towards the end of the day: we often over-fill our day and feel overwhelmed, but instead we can live and work by embracing our instincts and knowing when we have done enough, or when there is a need for change.” Walking Home is a series of sound journeys created to be listened to on headphones whilst walking. The five works were composed and recorded during lockdown for BBC Arts and Arts Council England’s Culture in Quarantine programme. Composed and performed by Abel Selaocoe Poem: Duende’s Nature Dance (for Abel Selaocoe) by Eugene Skeef Mixing and mastering by Calum Malcolm

13mins

13 Aug 2020

Rank #9

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Thinking with Opera 02: Carnivalesque

From Monteverdi to Monty Python, cross-dressing, gross-out humour and a preoccupation with the grotesque seems to offer a release from the constrictions of moral codes and social conventions. A familiar face on the Opera North stage, tenor Daniel Norman takes a trip into transgression in the company of Alan O'Leary, Professor of Film and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. Drawing on the theories of philosopher and critic Mikhail Bakhtin, they discuss “the licence to misbehave” in opera, film and performance; the liberating effect of the Carnivalesque in the arts; and its unforeseen consequences. Warning: this podcast features frank discussion of bodily functions! Produced as part of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds

1hr 3mins

29 Jul 2020

Rank #10