Riverside Studios, London W6
Opera Now March 2013
The new annual commission by W11 Opera, inaugurating the fifth decade of this marvellous company for young people, was performed at Riverside Studios with rather less conviction than usual: like the posh-school play you always fear but W11 nearly always transcends. The subject of Good Intentions, by Julian Philips and Simon Christmas, was a promising one with a sturdy operatic pedigree, the twist being that this Faustian journey was undertaken by children.
It’s an attractive score, much of it in a sort of jazz/showtune pastiche, with some nice spooky violin writing added and an ear for the possibilities of the small W11 band, conducted with zest by Philip Sunderland, who also accomplished the annual miracle of keeping 80 performers together from somewhere off to the side of the stage. But the score lacked flow; bitty and relying too much on the threefold repetition of episodes, ten minutes edited from it would have improved things plenty.
The message was surprisingly reactionary, tracing young Joanna’s journey from pushy young do-gooder to world-weary acceptance that you can’t make people be good. Simon Christmas’s sparky libretto characterised the frightful sub-groups of the classroom brilliantly, Olivia Hugh-Jones played earnest Joanna with conviction, and Annabel Omole had a lot of fun as Mephisto
W11 Opera for Young People presents a new opera ‘Good Intentions’
Kensington & Chelsea Today
Friday, 7th December 2012
W11 Opera for Young People presents Good Intentions, a new opera by Julian Philips, with a libretto by Simon Christmas.
Performances will be held on Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 December 2012 at 3.30pm & 7.00pm
The first-ever Composer in Residence at Glyndebourne, Philips has been commissioned by W11 to write the score for this funny, poignant and modern Faustian tale, which will be performed by a cast of over 80 young people.
This new opera, set in a school, follows a group of children on a journey to hell and back. Faced with temptation and dilemma, they are teased by the lure of instant popularity, celebrity status and gratification of buying brands.
With a witty libretto by Simon Christmas, this opera explores issues around being young today. Philips was commissioned to write a new full-length opera in 2010, Knight Crew, providing an unprecedented opportunity for young performers and community groups to take part in a Glyndebourne production. Knight Crew received critical acclaim following its premiere run in March 2010; BBC Television filmed the development of it and a new series, Gareth goes to Glyndebourne, was aired in June 2010, which won an International Emmy® in November 2011.
This new opera highlights W11’s commitment to commissioning new compositions from exciting talent. With its energetic young cast, W11 Opera has a strong community base.
For many it is their first introduction to music theatre of any kind. Over 40 years more than two thousand children have appeared in 33 brand new commissions. The W11 Opera experience proved inspirational for Eve Best and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, now patrons of the company.
More recent W11 cast members include Celine Buckens (Emilie in Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse) and Jonathan Antoine (Runner-Up in Britain’s Got Talent 2012). W11 Opera is also an invaluable showcase for composers. It is proud to commission composers who have had successful careers in world of contemporary music such as George Fenton, Karl Jenkins, Cecilia McDowall and Julian Grant and it seeks to be a platform for young composers.