Opera and Music Theatre

Don’t Breathe A Word (2005 - )

8 voices, 4 instruments and electronic music
Duration (estimated): (110 minutes)

Don’t Breathe A Word is a collaboration with award-winning dramatist Fraser Grace (Breakfast with Mugabe). A showcase workshop of three scenes was presented at The Colchester Arts Centre in May 2006 with members of the Electric Voice Theatre. The piece will be in two acts, each lasting approximately 60 minutes.

Following the workshop in Colchester, I was awarded an Arts Council Fellowship to attend the Banff Music Program Winter Residency in early 2007, during which I revised and completed a short score of the first act. Most recently, the Royal Opera House, London (ROH2 Opera Development) took over the project sponsoring a highly successful workshop in 2010, followed by the performance of an extract in their Exposure Series in the Linbury Theatre. This process continues with a further extract included in Exposure 2011 and planned workshop activity in 2011/2012.

The opera is set in the Central Asian, former Soviet republic of ‘Ushkent’. It tells the scandalous tale of a British Ambassador who falls in love with a local dancer – and dares to speak out against human rights abuses - committed by the Ushkenti government and excused by the West in its anxiety to prosecute the Global War on Terror. The Ambassador’s subsequent downfall is presented as a contemporary tragedy; a flawed man with a shred of decency who challenges authority and is destroyed by a warped and twisted moral universe.

Fraser’s libretto gives ample opportunity for humour and fun, passionate love-music, and deeply affecting scenes between the protagonist and his wife. The ending is ambiguous. The Ambassador’s career and family-life are in ruins, but his Ushkenti lover returns, cautioning him again: “Don’t breathe a word...”