It’s not often that you’re given the chance to conduct and direct the first public performance of a contemporary opera. So when the possibility of staging Jonathan Dove’s Seven Angels appeared, I jumped at the chance.
However, this isn’t opera as you might typically imagine. With a tiny cast of two singers (with harp accompaniment) and merely 30 minutes in length, this is an intense and intimate experience. Tracing the parallels between the lives of the Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca and Jesus Christ, the opera is divided into seven short scenes (most of which reference a particular painting by Piero of key events in Christ’s life). The scenes are comprised of a dialogue between Piero and an Angel figure (who takes an ambiguous role, encompassing the roles of muse and the Madonna). The Univ Chapel has proved a brilliant space in which to stage the opera, with the tableau ideas springing to life in this religious setting.
It is being paired with and preceded by Judith Weir’s The Consolations of Scholarship. If Seven Angels seems against the grain, then the Weir will definitely come as a shock! Although similarly concise in length, it’s entirely different in scope. Set in 13th century China, the performance includes supernatural dogs, hanging jackets, games of chess and Chinese goddesses. The multiple characters involved in the plot are all played by just one soprano, creating an entertaining (and impressive) theatrical experience
So, if you’re looking to try something different, head to the Univ Chapel. You definitely won’t regret it.