Blog post from Jennifer Goodman, Local Engagement Specialist, Huddersfield.
Just back from seeing Opera for the Unknown Woman at The Lawrence Batley Theatre as part of Yorkshire Festival.
The initial impression is of a stunning visual feast – the set is simple and stark but the digital backdrops swoop you across starlit skies, deserts, universes and carry the faces and voices of the beings from the future, reaching out across time to try and change the future of the cosmos.
The second impression is of luscious, startling, powerful voices – weaving together soaring classical vocals with the edgy, micro-tonal singers from Eastern Europe and the Middle East and the rich, earthy timbres of the women representing Africa and the Caribbean. Alongside the solo arias are moments when the chorus of voices reach into your gut and heart and make you catch your breath. But at the centre of all this is the poignant plight of Aphra – the lone woman survivor in a world devastated by ecological disaster 300 years in the future. Isolated above the stage she sends out a repeated plea for help and her solo at the core of the show is a delicate, plaintive but lyrical voice in the wilderness. As the group of women in the present, all activists in their own right and based on real women, debate and grapple with how to make the changes needed to divert disaster, the audience are asked to ponder the issues and solutions for themselves.
There is real power is seeing and hearing a group of women centre stage within the structures of opera – although this is opera as you will never have experienced it before – and as the story reaches it’s conclusion their voices are joined by those of a Welsh male voice choir, the male and female harmonies combining to offer a lifeline to their daughter in time in her aloneness as the set is suddenly drenched in colour.
I stayed for the Q & A afterwards – a fascinating opportunity to hear the influences, inspirations and thoughts of the artistic team and cast – and to hear the impact being in the show has had on their own actions and lives.
Do go and see the show – a visual, musical treat with a thought-provoking core. It’s on tomorrow and Friday. I will be back again on Friday and if you’d like to join me for drinks and nibbles and the chance to chat to the Musical Director, I’ll be in the Upper Bar from 6pm.