In summer 2013 the Melos Sinfonia, in partnership with Helios Collective, toured the UK with a production of Walton’s The Bear paired with two new chamber operas, Red as Blood and Bare, by up-and-coming composers Joel Rust and Philip Ashworth. Joel and Philip were selected to write these new operas through a composition competition, judged by Jonathan Dove, in which over fifty young composers - the majority current students and recent graduates of the major UK conservatories and universities - entered.
Red as Blood
Red as Blood is set in Iceland at the dawn of the second millennium, a country where Christianity competes with Pagan gods and crimes are paid for in blood. In this story, taken from Njáls Saga, Hildigunnr seeks vengeance against the men who murdered her husband Höskuldr, and sets out to manipulate her uncle to do the deed. They lie on opposite sides of the fault-lines of Icelandic society, but Hildigunnr desperately hopes that the ties of blood will be stronger than any others. And she has a final weapon; the cloak that Flosi gave to Höskuldr, now covered in his dried blood.
Famed dressmaker Bellisant Bardell earns a living designing mourning clothes for widows. Emerald-encrusted veils, shimmering chiffon shawls and gowns in gushing black taffeta: her creations take women’s grief to histrionic heights. But amidst the voluptuous vestments, there are some skeletons in the Bardell closet. For Bellisant and her two sons, things are about to be laid bare…
Walton’s operatic extravaganza The Bear is a farcical tale in which emotions run high andimpulsive behaviour resounds. The widow Popova has entombed herself within her own house, sworn to remain faithful to the memory of her licentious husband until the day she dies. Her vigil, however, is disturbed by the arrival of Smirnov, who possesses a singularity of vision that can only match that of Popova. He demands she immediately return him the money owed to him by her husband but when Popova refuses, an argument ensues that quickly escalates into a tempest of anger which can only end with one outcome…