TRAVERSE OPERAS FEATURE
recent [immune/2s- series via the exquisitely rnournful cello arrange- ment which set the mood for the Tron‘s Mayfest Macbeth — is still regarded as an anomaly.
‘1 always find the word "composer" a bit awkward. a bit imposing.‘ he says. ‘lt divides you from people who think of the 19th century artist work- ing on his own in a garret. whereas I think now you’re much more rooted to what‘s going on around you. A composer‘s just a musician who writes.‘
Evidence of Armstrong's acute sense of his environment is his inter- est in current technology. first awak- ened at the Royal Academy. and stimulated by the considerable time he’s since spent in recording studios here and in America. In the same way that James MacMillan‘s love of tradi- tional folk music infuses his evoca- tive orchestral pieces. so Armstrong‘s commissions flirt with electronics.
‘l’m interested in the synthesis between the acoustic classical orchestra and the amazing sound pos- sibilities of computer technology. where you can totally mutate and transform real sounds and make up your own sounds. It seems to me. here I am working in both these worlds where in one sense you have brilliant virtuoso musicians and in another you have this massive world of opportunities in electronic devel- opment and it feels very natural to combine both. I would go as far as to say it‘s almost impossible to ignore it.‘
These sentiments are manifest in Anna. lt‘s Armstrong‘s first attempt at opera. scoring a libretto supplied by John Clifford. with whom he has previously collaborated. in which the eponymous heroine embarks on a metaphorical journey towards self- awareness. Armstrong has responded to the inherent visual possibilities with a lyrical score which employs orchestral samples — a ‘virtual orehestra‘. he calls it — in the street scenes.
‘When Ian (Brown) asked me to write the operetta it was important that I wasn‘t put off by the fact that this thing had all the tradition behind it. because that would be like an anchor. It was important to make it 20th century. You have to write music that reflects its times. That‘s a big
‘I learned on the way that I could have fun with rhyming
I'd never done
before.’ - lain Heggie
feature in my classical works.‘
Of equal but contrasting interest is the llipside ofthe programme. Tourist Variations. the James MacMillan/lain Heggie collaboration is one of three MacMillan premieres at this year‘s Festival; the others being Diva Aloysio Sue/tun and his concerto for trumpet and orchestra Iz‘piclesis. lt launches a major Festival retrospec- tive of the prolific one's work. a wor- thy accolade for any native composer. never mind one that isn‘t a posthu- mous gesture.
Heggie‘s libretto is less linear. more theoretical than Clifford’s. Through the eyes of two natives of an unspeci- fied city watching as a coach dis- gorges its visitor load. the piece looks at the way tourism is affecting places and the people that live in them. “Where is all this tourism going‘?‘ asks Heggie. ‘Is it based on a need to move about? Or. on another level. explore because you‘re looking for something?’ For Heggie this poses a stimulating challenge for composer and lyricist.
‘I learned on the way that I could have fun with rhyming things which I‘d never done before.’ he says. ‘One of the things I miss about old American pop songs is the highly- formed identifiable lyric like ‘mere alcohol doom '1 thrill me at all/So tell me why should it he true/That I get a kick out ofyou'. So the lyrics would stand out and the music would lift the lyrics up so the audience would listen to them rather than ‘hallelujah‘ thou- sands of times.
‘For Jimmy (MacMillan) it‘s unusu- ally light and joyful and different for him because it has to underscore dia- logue and represent speech rhythm and do some of the job of the actor. pointing the audience towards sub- text.’
The operettas have been as much a field trip into virgin territory for musician as for playwright. The ven- ture has fired Armstrong‘s appetite for endeavour in the one area he has yet to tackle. ‘l’d really love to do a full orchestral piece — if anybody‘s listening out there.‘
With rapt attention. Craig, with rapt attention. 53 I Anna/Tourist Varlallons (Festival) Traverse Theatre (Venue IS) 228 1404. l7. I8. 20. 2] Aug (preview 14 Aug). 7pm. £12.
w H l P P l N G THE FRINGE INTO A FRENZY
Benchtours THE DEATH OF DON OUIXOTE
Cat. A DIRT ENTERS AT THE HEART
Coxcomb Theatre NO WAY OUT
Danceteller-Philadelphia (USA) REMINISCENCE OF A SOUTHERN GIRLHOOD
Deconstruction Touring IN THE PRISON COLONY
Golden Age Theatre PERICLES
Juggernaut Productions (USA) . FRANKENSTEIN DREAMS
La Pinguicola Sulle Vigne (Italy) THE CITY IN THE SEA (LA CITTA NEL MARRE)
Livestock - UVE ON THE EDGE THE MAGIC BOB AND MR BOOM SHOW
Melanie Stewart Dance (USA) LILITH
Os Satyros (Brazil) THE PHILOSPHY IN THE ALCOVE
Poor Fools DRACULA
Tandem Theatre THE GAMES RULE
Umbrella Theatre KABARETT VALENTIN
Wierszalin Theatre(Poland) ROLL-A-P EA (TURLAJGROSJEK)
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The List l3-—l‘) August 1993 15