When I was a little girl, I had a fascination with gardens: what grew in them, what lived in them, who visited and what lurked beneath the rocks. Our garden in Kew appeared gigantic, with a bountiful peach tree at the end of the path by our dilapidated green house with broken windows. An old slow-worm slept under a large stone which we’d often lift up to scream with delight, should my sister and I find it.
The memories are vivid, colourful and full of curiosity; gardens are forever changing and evolving. They have a life of their own.
In the world of opera, my voyage has certainly been a path of discovery; finding new and exciting projects to dig and disappear into.
Finding an opera based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale “The Juniper Tree” which hasn’t yet been seen or heard in the UK, is a work I wanted to bring to life. It reminds me of my childhood when my mother, who was Austrian, would perch on a stool telling me bed-time stories from German folklore. In an adaptation by Arthur Yorinks, author of over 35 children’s books, Philip Glass and Robert Moran have composed a vigorous and compelling piece of theatre, worthy of a place in the opera repertory.
“The Juniper Tree” tells of a wicked stepmother who murders her stepson, fearing that he reminds her husband of his late wife and serves him up in a stew to his hungry, unsuspecting father. The boy’s sister buries her brother’s bones under a juniper tree where their mother is buried, and the child’s spirit returns as a singing bird who wreaks vengeance on the evil stepmother before being restored to life in the bosom of his family. All ends happily ever after.
As with a lot of fairy-tales, there’s a moral for us all; if you do wrong then you will be punished, do good and you will be rewarded. Well, isn’t that what parents are supposed to teach us?
I was intrigued to discover that no-one else in the UK has considered performing this fantastical gem. Without hesitation I quickly accrued a top creative team who will do the opera the justice it truly deserves.
Since it’s premiere in the US thirty-two years ago (also the year it was composed), at the American Repertory Theater in Massachusetts, surprisingly “The Juniper Tree” hasn’t been given a chance around the globe. Our attempts at trying to fathom out why, have left us blank. The music is first class, the story is magical, it has great vocal writing for the singers…I hope you will agree these are the prime ingredients for a good opera?
With Philip Glass who has just turned 80 years, and still going strong, his music is more prominent than ever before. He has collaborated with Doris Lessing, Martin Scorsese, Ravi Shankar, David Bowie, Paul Simon and in the case of “The Juniper Tree”, composer Robert Moran.
We’re thrilled to be introducing The Juniper Tree opera to UK audiences at the end of March. An electric cast is lead by Mariya Krywaniuk as the evil step-mother and James Corrigan as her suffering husband.
Also singing is ten-year old Lia Tynan, who’s already made her Royal Opera House debut and Angus Whitworth, head chorister at the Chapel Royal. Children from schools in the borough will take part alongside a community chorus. The director is Donna Stirrup (English National Opera/Glyndebourne Festival Opera) and Andrew Langley who conducts a Royal College of Music ensemble. Set and Costume Design is by Laura Jane Stanfield.
“The Juniper Tree” will be performed on 30th & 31st March 2017 at 7.30pm at The Hammond Theatre, Hanworth Road, Hampton. TW12 3HD.
“Are Grimm Fairy tales too dark”, Stephen Evans, BBC
The Juniper Tree, press release January 2017, Angela Harrison Media Ltd.