Over summer I was delighted to have been busy writing my one act chamber opera entitled ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, which was commissioned by the Helios Collective as part of their ‘formations’ 2016 events in collaboration with ENO and KCL. I have always loved the short story of the same name by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and I have harboured the wish to turn it into an opera for about 2 years! Therefore, it is no surprise that I really enjoyed getting to write the libretto, music and seeing how the director, conductor and cast decide to interpret it to bring the score to life.
The story is centered on a nameless young woman’s descent into psychosis as her mental health issues, namely post-natal depression, are left misunderstood. The woman and her physician husband, John, move into a spacious and airy mansion, which he believes will help her health to improve by undergoing the rest cure; a common treatment developed in the late 1800s for the handling of hysteria and other nervous illnesses. With nothing to stimulate her mind, the woman becomes growingly obsessed with the yellow, distressed wallpaper that covers the room and her imagination begins to run wild as she starts to believe it is moving and coming alive. As her fascination with the wallpaper spirals out of control, so does her quest to break free.
I only managed to see the last 2 rehearsals at the beginning of november before the sitzprobe, which took place in a rather beautiful house outside of central London.
After the sitzprobe the masterclasses began, which consisted of performances of the works and discussions. Each of the five masterclasses were with Janis Kelly (Singer), Mark Wigglesworth (Conductor), David Pountney (Director), Jonathan Moore (Librettist) and Judith Weir (Composer) individually. The masterclass were really interesting and it was good to get some insight about the work.
I was very pleased with how the masterclasses went and the feedback we got on the opera. Team ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ are absolutely fantastic! Two additional operas, ‘Dead Equal’ by Rose Hall and Lila Palmer and ‘The Tale Of Thornstein Shiver’ by Alex Paxton, were also commissioned and performed in the masterclasses. It was lovely to be able to hear and see the developments of the other teams’ works. After the last masterclass with Judith Weir I was very excited for the final performance, which I will write about soon..
Here is the recording of the opera from the Judith Weir Masterclass: