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Eleanor Vale - an opera for Somerset

11th, 13th and 14th July 2012

Eleanor Vale cycles into the Somerset village of Blackmore, unannounced. No one knows her… or do they?
It is 1900. She teaches the children; she learns about the village, its customs, its people, its past. The apples fall, the juice is pressed, the memories stir…
Composed by John Barber, with words by Peter Cann and design by Charlie Cridlan, Eleanor Vale exudes Somerset: its myths and its mists; the secrets and the cider. Golden moments, dark days.

‘Like a cloudburst she came
Sweeping down off the moor.’

Eleanor Vale is by the community and about the community. In the distinguished tradition of Wedmore Opera, it is being directed by Marylin Johnstone and conducted by Carolyn Doorbar. Local voices, both adults and children, join the professional soloists in a powerful production that, like Eleanor Vale herself, will awaken buried memories and create an impression that lingers…

‘… like a ripple down the rhyne.’



Francesca Bowkett (Dorothy Bell)
Francesca studied singing with Geraldine Frank at Morley College, London and received further voice coaching with Ann Robson in Weston Super Mare. She sings regularly as a soloist in concerts and oratorios, which have included the Festival of Remembrance and gala concerts at the Colston Hall with most of the Armed Forces Concert Bands.
Francesca has enjoyed principal roles with Wedmore Opera, including Ulrica inThe Masked Ball, Mercedes in Carmen, the Sorceress in Dido & Aeneas, Flora in La Traviata, Lady Vivienne Tristram in Jago and Mama Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana.
Francesca has been awarded the Best Supporting Actress Rose Bowl Award for the West Country for Mother Superior in The Sound of Music and Katisha in The Mikado, and also for her role as Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus with Weston Operatic Society.
Married to Paul, with four grown up sons, Francesca teaches full time at East Brent First School and is delighted to be back singing with her friends in Wedmore.


Adam Green (Arthur Meadows)
Adam studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, the Royal Academy of Music, London, and the National Opera Studio. Operatic engagements include Angel in James Macmillan's Clemency for ROH, Arbace in Mozart’s Idomeneo for ENO, Belcore The Elixir of Love for ENO, Aeneas Dido and Aeneas for ENO, The Barber of Seville for WNO, Don Giovanni at the Berbigueres Festival, France, Rigoletto for Grange Park Rising Stars, Il Conte in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Musique Cordiale Festival, Aeneas for Opera North, Opera du Lille, and the Grand Theatre d’Aix en Provence, and First Mate Billy Budd with Daniel Harding and the LSO.
His concert experience is already extensive - Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium in Frankfurt under Lutz Köhler, Brahms’ Requiem, Handel’s Messiah and Fauré’s Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall under Sir David Willcocks, Elgar’s Coronation Ode with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Elijah in Budapest, Carmina Burana televised in Ely Cathedral, and Telemann’s Matthäus Passion at the Snape Maltings.


Lynda James (Edna Parish)
Lynda was born in Coventry but married into a West Country family where she has done much of her singing. She joined the WRAF as a bandswoman and played the tenor horn all over the country, including Jersey and most notably in the National Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert hall. After leaving the RAF she focused on singing and has played operatic and musical roles in societies in the Midlands and the West including Mimi in La Boheme, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Dido in Dido and Aeneas, Anna Glavari in The Merry Widow and Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus. She is proud to have won the Somerset fellowship best actress award for her portrayal of Julia Jellicoe in the rarely performed The Grand Duke by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Lynda is delighted to return to Wedmore Opera having played her first opera role as Frasquita in their first theatre tent production of Carmen in 1994.


Sarah Minns (Eleanor Vale)
Sarah was brought up in Somerset, and started her operatic career with Wedmore Opera when she debuted in the role of Verity for the world premiere of Jago by Mike Westbrook, commissioned by the company to celebrate the millennium.
Sarah was educated at Wells Blue School, and then went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music, and at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. In Cardiff she was also a member of Welsh National Youth Opera, and a scholarship singer with the BBC.
Sarah has received critical acclaim for her work in opera, oratorios, and also on the concert platform.
Opera credits include: Bianca/Gabriella La Rondine (Opera Holland Park), Sprite Fantastic Mr Fox (Opera Holland Park), Kate Pinkerton Madam Butterfly (OperaUpClose), Musetta La Bohème (WO), Santuzza Cavalleria Rusticana (WO), Carolina Il Matrimonio Segreto, Fox The Cunning Little Vixen (RWCMD), Gretel Hansel and Gretel (RWCMD), Dido Dido and Aeneas (RWCMD), Emmie Albert Herring (RWCMD), and Flower girl/Forest creature The Poisoned Kiss conducted by Richard Hickox for CHANDOS Records.
Sarah is excited to be back with Wedmore Opera singing the role of Eleanor Vale.


Nicholas Sharratt (Mathias Lee)
Nicholas was born in Nottingham and studied Commerce at Birmingham University, and singing at the Royal Northern College of Music and the National Opera Studio.
Operatic highlights include Rudolph Euryanthe and First Prisoner Fidelio (Glyndebourne); Nemorino Elixir of Love (Grange Park); Brighella Ariadne auf Naxos (Garsington); Lippman Of Thee I Sing (Bregenz); Ferrando Cosi Fan Tutte (Tokyo); Nero Coronation of Poppea (Early Opera Company); Tamino Die Zauberflöte (Tel Aviv); Camille The Merry Widow, Lamplighter in Weimberg’s The Portrait, Pedrillo Abduction from the Seraglio (Opera North); Orpheus Orpheus in the Underworld (Scottish Opera); Ernesto Don Pasquale, Almaviva The Barber of Seville (English Touring Opera).
In concert, he has sung Parry Jones’ A Serenade to Music at the BBC Proms (LSO/Sir Andrew Davis); Tirsi La Danza at the Wigmore Hall (Christian Curnyn); Hotel Porter Death in Venice at the QEH (Philharmonia/Hickox); and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle at St. John’s, Smith Square. Recordings include: Prince Dominic The Sofa (Independent Opera) for Chandos, Judge Schwanda the Bagpiper for NAXOS.
Future engagements include two world premieres: Adam A Walk in the Garden (Jonathan Dove), and Sam Ghost Patrol for Scottish Opera/Music Theatre Wales.


Marie Vassiliou (Catherine Meadows)
Marie studied singing and viola at the Royal College of Music. As a concert soloist, she has appeared at all the leading London venues under conductors including Martyn Brabbins, Andrew Davis and Edward Gardner and at festivals including Huddersfield Contemporary Music and the BBC Proms. Operatic engagements in Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, USA & UK have included: La Calisto, Poppea, Donna Elvira, Léïla, Micaëla, Mimi, Nedda, Pamina, Tatyana, Violetta and Governess (Turn of the Screw), and roles in contemporary operas by Simon Holt, Richard Chew and Mike Westbrook. Baroque engagements include: regular recitals & recordings with Janiculum, Palermo Scarlatti Festival, Eisenstadt Haydn Festival, Japan tour with the Purcell Quartet and performances of Handel’s Agrippina with the Early Opera Company in New York.
She is particularly noted as a gifted interpreter of contemporary music and has given world premieres of works written for her by Harvey Brough, Richard Chew, Anthony Gilbert, Kenneth Hesketh and Mike Westbrook, british premieres of works by Dutilleux, Tippett and Judith Weir, and has performed widely with contemporary ensembles such as Composer’s Ensemble, Endymion, Ensemble 10/10 and the Philharmonia. Most recently she appeared at the Royal Opera House, Linbury Studio, in the world premiere of Errollyn Wallen’s Yes.
She is a member of the teaching staff at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Behind the scenes:


Composer - John Barber
Born in Bristol, composer and performer John Barber has a rich musical life. His work has been commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne Opera and the Royal Academy of Music and he has led music education projects for Opera North, the Wigmore Hall and Spitalfields Music. The 2011 Spitalfields Festival saw the premiere of his latest work, We are Shadows. This community opera, with a libretto by Hazel Gould, was developed over two years with local primary school children, Women sing East and members of The Sixteen and involved 200 performers. Last year he wrote Consider the Lilies, a cantata with a libretto by Peter Cann for La Folio, which premiered at St Martin-in-the-Fields, conducted by Howard Moody and with soloists Michael Chance, Omar Ebrahim and Elin Manahan Thomas.
John’s alt-folk band, firefly, featuring piano, strings, gamelan, guitar and voice, released its first album, Lightships, in February this year.


Librettist - Peter Cann
Peter Cann is a writer, director and performer who works across opera, theatre and radio. He has written for traditional theatre spaces including Birmingham Rep and the Theatre Royal Northampton but has a particular interest in site-specific work and non-theatre venues. His work has been performed in a burnt out ballroom (by Welsh National Opera), a multi-storey car park (by Shared Experience), for lakes, castles and churches (by Pentabus, of which he is a former artistic director), and a Jamaican amphitheatre (Absolute Theatre). Peter collaborated with John Barber on Consider the Lilies, for La Folia last year and is currently working on a commission for the Portuguese company O Teatro do Montemuro. He is currently Writer in Residence at the University of the West of England. 


Designer - Charlie Cridlan
Charlie first worked with Wedmore Opera in 2000 on the tent opera Jago and has since designed their productions of The Pearl Fishers, Tosca, and La Boheme. She has an established career as a freelance set and costume designer, based in a studio in Central London and works extensively in the fields of theatre, opera, exhibition and event design.
Most recently she designed the UK National Tour, Mr Stink by David Walliams; Three Sisters, Rose Theatre and Shore, Lyric Theatre. She has worked in spaces as varied as Wilton’s Music Hall, The Roundhouse, London and open air seasons at Scoop by More London and for companies that include English Touring Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, and The Barbican Centre, HTV Bristol, Channel 4, Endemol and Living TV.
She also designs exhibitions and events. Clients include Wavelength Ltd, ?What If!, Diageo & Shepherd's Bush Empire. Her design for exhibition, Ignorance and Want; the Social Conscience of Charles Dickens, is currently at the Charles Dickens Museum, London. Once upon a time at the Adelphi and Liar’s Market were both nominated for Best Design, OFFIE’s 2010 and her design for Wedmore Opera’s La Boheme will be exhibited at the V&A in 2012 as part of Transformation and Revelation UK Design for Performance 2007-2011
. More.....

Read Charlie's story of how she designed our 2008 production of La Bohème - click here


Choreographer - Hayley Barker
Hayley was born in Somerset in 1987. She went on to achieve the BPA Hons from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, graduating in 2010. She has performed throughout the UK in projects and installations, mainly working with Leeds and Bristol based artists on site-specific pieces, works using voice, and has also danced with visually impaired artists. She is currently working on a project for an event in London for emerging artists and is involved in the Battle of the Winds for the Olympic event in Weymouth. She has also started to choreograph her own work, working with character based movement and improvisation within performance.


Choreographer - Ceridwen Plested
Ceridwen (Ceri) studied at the King Alfred School and Sixth Form Centre and is now an undergraduate student on the BA Hons degree course in Dance at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. From an early age Ceri was involved in a number of dance groups and has participated as choreographer and dancer in many community and youth festivals, voluntary and charity events. She has travelled abroad with KAZDANZ Youth Dance Company on a number of dance exchanges, including to Latvia and Russia.
Ceri has also taught dance to all ages, including adults and primary school children. She has choreographed and performed in many shows, including Wedmore Opera’s Trial by Jury (2010) and Trattoria Wedmoritana (2011). Her debut with Wedmore Opera was as a chorus member in Pearl Fishers (2004), alongside her brother and father. Ceri has a particular interest in Asian dance styles, including Bollywood and Bellydance. On graduation, she hopes to build a career in dance and choreography, alongside teaching.

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