Tuesday, 30 July 2013

CBe 2013 7 / Alba Arikha, Soon

Modigliani – easier on the eye than a photograph of the door of a rehearsal studio down an alleyway in the rain. I’d taken my camera to the rehearsal this afternoon, but wasn’t forward enough to ask if – in the middle of intense collaborative work: singers, musisican, director, author, composer – I could use it. And Modigliani does make an appearance in the text of Soon, the narrative poem by Alba Arikha that’s being performed at the Riverside Studios, London, this Thursday and Friday, 1 and 2 August.

Whether the Modigliani sequence makes it into the opera by the composer Tom Smail, Alba Arikha's husband, based on the narrative poem, I don’t know. The Chopin sequence does: Chopin, who died in 1849, is one of the people on the mind of the narrator as she and other passengers on a train to Paris are stuck, somewhere in the middle of the French countryside: ‘We apologise for this technical problem, we’re dealing/ with it and will keep you updated,’ says the train announcer. Chopin sits down next to the narrator. This is one of the sequences I watched in rehearsal. In the space of the enforced pause on her journey, others – lovers, parents – are as real and present to the narrator as the variously impatient, disappointed, tired, ill, flirtatious co-travellers around her.

Soon was written as a poem; it has become an opera by happy accident. Tickets for the performances – two only – at the Riverside Studios are available here. The book, though not officially published until September, will be on sale at the performances and is also available now from the CBe website – where you’ll also find more details about both poem and author.

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