Pig (1992)

For Solo Voices and Ensemble   14 minutes

I wanted to work with April de Angelis as soon as I met her.  ENO Contemporary Opera Studio gave us the opportunity for our first collaboration in 1992, when Henrietta Bredin asked us to write a 10-minute opera for performances at the Almeida Theatre, alongside two other new ‘Soundbites’ and works by Judith Weir and Stephen Oliver.

April and I met to talk about the project.  We were excited about creating an opera in miniature, with overture, arias, duets and trios all happening in a few minutes.  The line-up of two sopranos and baritone suggested a love-triangle.  I was also enthusiastic about fables involving animals.  We aGreed we would each think of ten different story-ideas, and then meet again.

A couple of days later, a libretto arrived in the post.  It was five pages long, in rhyme, a mischievous tale of two girls and a Pig.  I thought it was perfect: not a wasted word in it, and every phrase singable.  Like all April’s work, a playful and deceptively simple surface covers an unpredictable world of dark, sometimes brutal possibilities.  Non-naturalistic and vivid, a world which music can inhabit.

The following year, the triumvirate who had presided over ENO’s ‘golden age’ – David Pountney, Mark Elder and Peter Jonas – left the company.  As a parting gift, Henrietta Bredin commissioned Seven Deadly Sins, approaching a different writer-composer team for each sin.  Perhaps a simple association of ideas led her from Pig to Greed – anyway, that was the sin she asked us to dramatise in 6 minutes.  Once again, April created a brilliant fable of breathtaking economy.  Looking at it now, I notice that its encounter, between breezy holiday-makers and someone from another culture in a painful predicament, subtly prefigures Flight.

Libretto by April de Angelis

Written for ENO Contemporary Opera Studio

First performance: 24th March 1992, Almeida Theatre.

Instrumentation

2S.Bar Soli

Fl.Cl—Pf—Hp—Vln.Vc.DB