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timothy-langston
2nd May 2012

Anya 17

This review is a response to recent complaints regarding a previously published review of Anya 17, performed at the RNCM. I was at the event, and felt as though the opera might benefit a fresh review. The concert marked the penultimate night of the North West New Music festival, with the professional musicians Ensemble 10/10, […]
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This review is a response to recent complaints regarding a previously published review of Anya 17, performed at the RNCM. I was at the event, and felt as though the opera might benefit a fresh review.

The concert marked the penultimate night of the North West New Music festival, with the professional musicians Ensemble 10/10, conducted by the festival’s artistic director Clark Rundell. The first half featured pieces written for the players of the orchestra, in various combinations. The opening work was by the festivals featured composer Colin Matthews; this short work presented an energetic opening to the concert, flaunting the strong playing of the ensemble and the fluid relationship with their conductor.

This work was followed by the first student performance of the evening, the soprano Sarah Parking singing the cycle In Sleep by Ails in Rain. Ms. Parking tackled the complex music with an ease only achieved through solid preparation and great musicality. Despite the piece being composed for Mezzo Soprano, there were no noticeable signs of the Canadian soprano struggling with the tessitura of the work. Overall, this performance captured the intense palette of emotions and vocal colours within the technically challenged cycle, bringing the piece to an exciting standard.

The first half concluded with a commissioned work by University of Manchester Professor of Composition, Dr. Richard Whalley. The programme note explained the composer’s muse for the three pieces and it has to be said that I, and seemingly many from conversations in the interval that followed found the pieces to be highly intelligent and well heard works, performed expertly by the ensemble.

The next half presented the anticipated main event, the Manchester premiere of Adam Gorb’s opera based on real life experiences of sex trafficking, Anya 17. I believe that it is important to point out that with such sensitive and powerful subject matter, it is hard for an audience to feel anything but moved considering the power of the production and performance.

The musical aspect of the performance was impressive from all. The ensemble played with ease, switching through the different stylisms of the various idioms that Gorb had included in his score, and the cast performed to a high standard, especially in regards to their vocal production, which from some was highly technically polished, most

impressively so from Andrea Tweedale (Anya), who maintained a versatile vocal and emotional performance throughout the technically challenging opera.

The production itself used the space and lack of set imaginatively, using aspects of physical theatre to create variety between scenes and locations, though it did at instances seem limited, and the majority of the dramatic impetus came from the talented cast, notably Amy Webber, who portrayed the blind character Elena with a harrowing realism.

All in all, I believe that the opera was a great success and the moving story was certainly served well by the performers, the entirely of the cast still being students. I would certainly hope that the opera/cast are able to perform the work again soon, as not only was the standard exceptional, but the piece serves the issue at hand in a way that brings attention to both itself and opera in a way that is beneficial for both.


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