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5 April 2008

Saturday 5 April 2008 12:15-13:00 (Radio 3)

With Petroc Trelawny.


45 minutes

In this programme

 Harrison Birtwistle: The Minotaur

Minotaur - costume design by Alison Chitty
Petroc Trelawny presents a special edition of Music Matters tracing the development of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new opera, The Minotaur, premiering at the Royal Opera House in London on 15th April 2008.

With access to the production process, Petroc witnesses the new work come to life as the cast, orchestra, director, designer, conductor and composer collaborate to shape a major event in the musical calendar.

Harrison Birtwistle courtesy of Hanya Chlala/ArenaPal
The Minotaur is Birtwistle's first full scale opera since The Last Suppe, 1998-99 and gives the Royal Opera House's music director, Antonio Pappano, his first opportunity to conduct a new work at Covent Garden.

Petroc visited the 'model showing' for the production in February - a chance to see a miniature version of the opera indicating the way it will look and fit together on stage. However, he didn't actually hear the work until he visited recent rehearsals and shared the experience of hearing the orchestral score performed for the first time with the cast present.

Sir John Tomlinson courtesy of MSM Ltd - Kaempf  Sir John Tomlinson takes the title role in the opera. Birtwistle wrote The Minotaur with Tomlinson in mind for his protagonist. Their association goes back a long way as Tomlinson sang the part of the Doctor in Birtwistle's Punch and Judy and the Green Knight in his opera Gawain.

Similarly, Birtwistle has had a longstanding collaboration with the librettist for The Minotaur, David Harsent, who explains to Petroc that he has created a libretto that can stand alone as a literary work.

In addition, Petroc catches up with the director, Stephen Langridge, who has previously directed productions of Birtwistle's Yan Tan Tethera and the Io Passion as well as working on the revival of Gawain at the Royal Opera House.

Christine Rice courtesy Rob MooreWith further contributions from the designer, Alison Chitty, conductor, Antonio Pappano, and singers Johann Reuter (Theseus) and Christine Rice (Ariadne).

And, Birtwistle himself on his fascination with the figure of the mythical Minotaur and its complex psychology - played out in his dark and brooding realisation of the story.

Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur receives its world premiere at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 15th April 2008 for six performances and you can hear it on BBC Radio 3's Opera on 3 on Saturday 31st May at 6.30pm.

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