Introducing... Agreed

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A brand new opera is to be premiered on Glyndebourne’s main stage in March 2019 featuring a cast of professional singers, and a chorus drawn from the local community and Glyndebourne Youth Opera.

‘This is an opera about, and for, the community’ says composer Howard Moody.

Every three years, Glyndebourne stages a community opera. Agreed follows on from the success of Knight Crew (2010), Imago (2013) and Nothing (2016).

About the opera

Agreed is a collaboration between composer Howard Moody and librettist Anna Moody which tells a story of mythic proportions while drawing on a diverse range of musical styles and influences. This world premiere will be directed by Simon Iorio with design by Cordelia Chisholm.

‘The story reflects an act of political division within a family’, says Anna, ‘but it is also a love story entwined in worlds of myth, the patterns of a changing landscape and currents of the water which both join and divide a community. The leader is a fearful man blinded by his political climate. He divides his people to cut off the past and loses what is most precious to him as a result. He has to become accountable for this.’

Composer Howard Moody rehearses with the chorus. Photo: Sam Stephenson

An insight into Howard Moody’s score

The music of Agreed reflects the power of the sea and changing tides. The score is influenced by folksong, landscape and birdsong.

A fusion of musical styles contrasts the angst of a political leader, the passion of his daughter and her lover and the sad reflections of a grandmother. The narrator, a jazz singer, sings in a freer and more improvised style. She is accompanied by a group of on-stage musicians playing the viola, udu pot, guitar and kora.

The chorus combines the optimistic energy of a youth chorus, including members of the Glyndebourne Youth Opera, together with a larger community group who drive the action. This intergenerational group sings with an eclectic mix of instruments and performance styles. Agreed is scored for a large chorus, five soloists, classical orchestra, extensive percussion and brass.

Chorus rehearsals for Agreed. Photo: Sam Stephenson

The inspiration for the music

Howard says ‘the music was partly inspired by three trips that I made to New Zealand where the birdsong, the sea and the landscape made an indelible impression.’ The movements of a changing landscape in the piece have been interpreted in Cordelia Chisolm’s designs.

‘In one of my initial discussions with Simon Iorio about the project, we discussed the challenges of expressing memory on stage. I had become enchanted by Polynesian folk music and the idea of a melody which could carry memory between generations. In Agreed, there is a melody which pervades the score, passing through all the solo voices until it is taken up by the chorus. They all have to become accountable for the divisions in their society.

It has been terrific working with my daughter Anna. I can’t imagine a more vibrant libretto that really does express the voice of the next generation. Her finely crafted words have become the driving force of the music. Exactly how operatic collaboration should be – and we still get on!’

Cast and creative team

Designer Cordelia Chisholm, Assistant Director Morgan Richards and Director Simon Iorio in rehearsals. Photo: Sam Stephenson

This will be composer Howard Moody’s fourth opera, including PUSH which was written for the Battle Festival in partnership with Glyndebourne in 2016. Director Simon Iorio worked on PUSH with Howard and they are looking forward to collaborating again.

Simon originally trained and performed as an opera singer before he turned his hand to directing. Since then he has worked as an Assistant Director alongside some of the most revered opera directors such as David McVicar, as well as directing his own operas including Orpheus in the Underworld (Offenbach) for Trinity Laban at Blackheath Halls.

The designer of the show, Cordelia Chisholm, has a wealth of experience as a set and costume designer and in 2017 she was nominated for best designer at the International Opera Awards. This is the first time she will be working on a project at Glyndebourne.

Louise Winter with William Dazeley and Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts in Hamlet, Tour 2017. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

The opera features a chorus of 75 local auditioned singers, ranging in age from 12-71. Their music is woven together and led by five professional singers and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Among the professional singers are renowned British mezzo-soprano Louise Winter (who played Gertrude in the Tour 2017 production of Hamlet) and the critically-acclaimed British jazz and soul singer Zara McFarlane.

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Agreed is made possible with the support of MariaMarina Foundation, The Chalk Cliff Trust, The Charles Peel Charitable Trust, John S Cohen Foundation, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, The Leigh Trust, Newby Trust, The Radcliffe Trust, RVW Trust, Jules and Cheryl Burns, Martin and Dani Clarke, Wendy and Nicholas Heesom, Davina Hodson, Joanna Dickson Leach, Mr Frederik Paulsen, George and Patti White, Mark and Rosamund Williams, and in memory of Jeffrey Vaughan Martin through Glyndebourne’s New Generation Programme.

Glyndebourne’s education programme is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Our Education projects would not be possible without our generous donors.

‘For a number of years we have been supporting schemes to help young people to find a career in the arts, particularly in dance and theatre. Since becoming supporters of Glyndebourne we have been very impressed with its educational programme and particularly with projects such as Belongings in 2017 and Agreed this year which commission original operas and bring around 80 young people to the theatre to perform on the main stage alongside professional singers and an orchestra, which in itself offers opportunities to young musicians. It is such a good introduction and opportunity for those young people to develop a passion for opera’. — Jules and Cheryl Burns