Among the offerings scheduled to feature are the world premiere of John Casken's God's Liar, and the British premiere of two Japanese productions by Alexander Goehr. Casken's work, a co-production with Theatre de la Monnaie from Brussels, is based on Tolstoy's 19th-century novella Father Sergius. The story follows the moral and spiritual journey of Stepan Kasatsky, a cavalry officer, who winds up as a vagrant in Siberia. The text is by Casken and Emma Warner, with leading Norwegian soprano Anne Bolstad set to make her British debut.
Goehr's Japanese operas, Kantan/Damask Drum (pictured), are to be directed by Tim Hopkins. Both are celebrations of human vanity and foolishness, using elements of magic realism in their plots. Kantan concerns a young man's magic pillow, whilst Damask Drum is the darker tale of an elderly gardener's romantic longings. Goehr is a co-founder of the Music Theatre Ensemble along with Harrison Birtwhistle, Peter Maxwell Davies and John Ogden.
Elsewhere, composer Heiner Goebbels directs Sound City, a project involving 26 London-based musicians from across the music spectrum. The work aims to explore London's complex musical landscape in the company of the musicians who inhabit it. Another British premiere, Olga Neuwirth's The Long Rain, will also be performed. A piece for ensemble, electronics and film, the concert will be accompanied by a film based on Ray Bradbury's 1946 story.
The Almeida has produced new operas since its inception in 1980, initially in tow with the Almeida Festival and as part of Almeida Opera since 1992. The Hoxton New Music Days 2001 will present retrospectives of five major European composers, including Britain's Jonathan Harvey. Future plans for the Almeida Festival overall include the Genesis Prizes for Opera scheme. Funding will be provided for the completion of new works, with the winning operas to be performed as part of the Almeida's season in 2003.
-by Gareth Thompson