- June 2021
two women (both alike in dignity) - Marcella Keating
“My dear …”
Two women begin the opera in love, but separated. Their love for each other is all-encompassing, and beautiful. As they vocalise their relationship, those around them begin to take notice, commenting on their relationship and verbalising some of their fears. Questions are raised as the men’s voices grow louder and more discordant, with shouts and echoes rippling around the auditorium with waves of hatred. As the two women and their relationship are torn apart by these fears and comments, the voice of one of the women breaks through, singing about memories of their relationship. As the discord gives way to calm, silence, and stillness, the two women finally embrace, surrounded by a chorus of their and the men’s voices, now representing a more loving world.
two women (both alike in dignity) takes selections from the letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, updating them to create a timeless love story which draws on generations of lacking LGBTQ+ representation in the media and on the operatic stage, exploring how society looks down on LGBTQ+ love. In placing female-oriented stories on the operatic stage, and ones in which the women are not victims and do not die, two women attempts to empower the audience whilst acknowledging the history of pain built into these communities.
“Yours ever …”
Esther: a voice for the voiceless - Mary Offer
After a decree is passed condemning the Jewish race to death, Esther selflessly risks her life to face the King, becoming a voice for those who would otherwise be abandoned at the edge of society. Guided by God, love, and her faith in humanity, Esther uses her intelligence and humility to make her case to the King, but will she be able to save the Jews? Queen Vashti was banished for her disobedience to the King, and Esther could face an even worse fate, especially as the King’s advisor Haman is a scheming megalomaniac willing to murder an entire race for the sake of his own hubris.
A tragicomic opera exploring the tensions and inequalities of ancient times, yet still applicable today, Esther: a voice for the voiceless depicts the extent to which authority ruled, ruthlessly oppressing minorities such as women and Jews. One of only two female-centred books in the Bible, and perhaps the only to depict a rebellious woman, Esther shows courage in a proto-feminist manner, becoming a voice for those who would otherwise be voiceless in the face of power. She boldly risks death in order to save the Jews, facing scrutiny from Haman but remaining constant in her faith, displaying strength of character and defying expectations for a woman of her time.
Esther: a voice for the voiceless conveys a timeless message of the importance of recognising and empowering the oppressed: an issue which remains at the heart of our culture today and has a potent poignancy for our current times.
The Jackal who pretended to be a peacock - Katrina Toner
‘Ardour is for a Prophet and God’s Friend;
Impudence suits impostors who pretend,
To draw men’s eyes towards themselves with pride,
Then claim, ‘We’re blissful!’ though they’re glum inside’
Rumi was a thirteenth-century Persian poet, and his Masnavi is one of the most significant works of spiritual poetry. It is grounded in Sufi philosophy and comprises stories and poetry that convey a sense of the spirituality and introspection.
The Jackal who pretended to be a peacock explores the ideas of truth and illusion through two stories presented in parallel in book three of Rumi’s Masnavi. The audience is guided through these fables by an omnipresent narrator. The first story describes a jackal who falls into a vat of oil and poses as a peacock, whilst the second details the escapades of a man who finds a sheep’s tail and uses it to grease his moustache in an attempt to create the appearance of having partaken in a feast. The two stories unfold in parallel and reach their climaxes as the protagonists’ deceptions are exposed. Throughout the opera, the drama is interspersed with introspective passages in which the voice of God relates the action to more abstract contemplations regarding the real and the false. Fragments of these philosophies are repeated in the original Farsi.
Concepts such as truth and illusion are particularly relevant today. This opera considers these ideas through a classical and spiritual text, allowing for a sense of distance and reflection. This meditative aspect of the opera is counterbalanced by delightful surrealism and Rumi’s subtle satire. In decontextualising the fables through simple costumes and pared-down set design, this production seeks to lend their moral lessons a universal quality.
The libretto is adapted from Jawid Mojaddedi’s translation.
The Masnavi, Book Three, Jalal al-Din Rumi, J. A. Mojaddedi (translator)
© Jawid Mojaddedi 2013
The moral rights of the author have been asserted
Reproduced with permission of the Licensor through PLSclear
- March 2020
Over nuptial flames, a prayer is sung. A plea. A name.
A man bursts into the Theban temple. Petrified, groom and congregation cower. The ardent prayer is heard again as the bride races into the arms of her beloved and away.
On Olympus, his wife watches.
Reframing Handel’s Semele in immersive opera will involve vibrant storytelling, as the audience mingle amongst our ensemble in the transformed Round Church.
Through the mythical portraits of imperfect people our audience come face to face with domestic violence, affairs, drug abuse, and ultimately murder. Yet this retelling isn’t your typical patriarchal myth: Queen Juno is flawed but feminist; Semele a priestess, princess, and heir to the Theban kingdom.
Our cast and musicians will work closely to create the sensory worlds of ancient Thebes and the timeless land of the Gods in rehearsals over Lent term, with workshops from alumni and professionals in the industry.
- November 2019
‘If right was honoured, you would be sprawling in the dust before me. Because I am your Queen’
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, is rotting in prison. Charged with treason against her cousin Elizabeth, her life lies in her rival's hands. But Elizabeth, trapped amongst scheming courtiers, feels torn by the choice. To let her cousin live is to risk rebellion, to destroy her is to make her a martyr. And, as Mary once again begins to plot her escape, Elizabeth can't afford to hesitate any longer.
Fireside Theatre, the team behind Northanger Abbey (Selwyn Chapel; 5 stars – Varsity) and Wild Honey (ADC Theatre; 4 stars – The Tab) present Friedrich Schiller’s great historical tragedy in Oswald’s epic modern translation. The play will be brought to life in Cambridge’s historic Round Church, and accompanied by live period choral music.
Tickets on sale now: https://fireside.tessera.events
- May 2018
‘There is something rotten in the state of Denmark’
William Shakespeare’s unparalleled classic revisited in the stunning candlelit venue of the Round Church, Cambridge.
Hamlet, the young Prince of Denmark, has learnt of his father's sudden death whilst watching his mother remarry his uncle within weeks. Devastated by grief, Hamlet's relationships with family and lover crumble as the ghost of his father urges him not to trust those closest to him. Fired up by hatred, Hamlet sets out to seek revenge on those he thinks has wronged him. As Hamlet spirals out of control, Ophelia battles her own demons as her precarious emotional state unwinds before us.
As always, Shakespeare's words are as socially relevant today as when they were first written with themes of mental health, suicide and revenge within the tempestuous Danish court.
- November 2016
This beautiful but little-known opera tells the ancient legend of Orpheus and Euridice, where Orpheus must rescue Euridice from Pluton, the God of the Underworld, charming him with music after she dies at their marriage celebrations. Encompassing lively Baroque dances as well as sumptuous arias, Orpheus attempts to rescue his beloved in a work that explores a wide range of human emotions, from joy and love, to the darkest depths of grief and despair, in only an hour.
- October 2016
This October the Pembroke Players Japan Tour will return from Japan with the same Shakespeare play first toured ten years ago: Romeo and Juliet.
In the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death the ever-recognisable love story of Romeo and Juliet continues to find new resonance. This is a modern, energised restaging of the classic text.
Having performed in Tokyo, Okinawa, Ely, Cambridge and London – don’t miss the last few performances of this show with some of Cambridge’s most experienced actors.
- June 2016
In Fredric Jameson's Archaeologies of the Future, he writes: “can we invent a way of reading Thomas More's Utopia (1516) so as to recover something of the shock and freshness of its elegant new Latin for the first European readers?”
On June 26, we will be holding as symposium as an interdisciplinary investigation provoked by this question, and a celebratory reading for the 500th anniversary of More’s text. The symposium will include an evening performance at the Round Church, featuring a brand new staged work by composer Louis d'Heudieres, contributions from visual artists, and other performance events.
- April 2016
14 POEMS BY GOTTFRIED KELLER (1819-1890) WITH MUSIC BY OTHMAR SCHOECK (1886-1957)
OSKAR MCCARTHY (BARITONE) | ROB KEELEY (PIANO)
In 1927 Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck adapted the poetry of his fellow countryman Gottfried Keller to produce the song cycle Lebendig Begraben which tells the story of a man who awakes to find he has mistakenly been buried. Firstly he panics and hopes that his girlfriend or a friendly grave robber will come to his rescue; then he begins to reminisce in his coffin about his childhood, youth and first love; finally he casts his soul into eternity in an acceptance of his fate.
James Joyce heard Buried Alive performed when he was living in Zurich in 1935 and declared Schoeck better than Stravinsky. He immediately sent out for a German dictionary so that he could translate the libretto into English. The premise of the novel Joyce was working on at the time, Finnegans Wake, bears an uncanny similarity: a man is prematurely laid to rest and wakes up to find himself in his coffin. Could Buried Alive have inspired one of the most famous novels of the 20th Century?
- February 2016
Cambridge Experimental with Moving Poets (Charlotte/Berlin) presents:
Krapp’s Last Tape. An ageing banana eating man reflects on his life as he attempts to record and respond to the years passed, falling into despair and melancholy in realisation of the passage of time.
[+ movements]. A devised physical theatre performance patterned in fragments of everyday actions, complemented by music created by a Cambridge composer, which together explores the repetitions and circularity of life.
Combining the bleak sentimentality of Beckett and the formalist patterning of [+ movements] in addition to the atmosphere of the 12th century Round Church, this production seeks to both stay true to but also develop that which Beckett achieves, pushing the audience to reconsider thoughts in relation to youth, memory and the patterns of life.
- March 2015
ALBATROSS PRODUCTIONS presents a new version of Shakespeare's Cymbeline.
Modern Britain, home to liberal thought, social progression and a renewed sense of pride. The monarchy, having enjoyed strength and stability from recent surges in nationalistic interest, is now facing adversity from abroad and from within. Princess Imogen, heir to the throne since her brother's disappearance, and heart-throb of many, has finally decided to marry. Having eschwed kind but misguided offers to marry her step-brother, Imogen instead opts to propose to her girlfriend, Posthumus. King Cymbeline, himself a pioneer of the Marriage Equality Laws, is now embroiled in untimely personal conflict. The Queen won't permit a gay royal wedding, but losing his daughter would enfranchise his detestable step-son - and, with a backlash invasion from Italy on the horizon, he needs his kingdom as united as possible.
- September 2014
For the eighth consecutive year the Cambridge University Japan Tour will be visiting Tokyo and Yokohama to perform a Shakespeare play and give educational workshops in schools, theatres and universities.
With generous sponsorship from Seikei University, the Tour this year is excited to present "The Merchant of Venice".
- September 2013
'What fashion, madam, shall I make your breeches?'
In this lively touring production of Shakespeare's brilliant play, freshly returned from storming Tokyo, girls play the boys, boys play the girls, and a dog (sort of) plays the dog. A bare stage will be filled with live music, physical comedy, and serious moral dilemmas.
Proteus and Valentine are best friends, but they have very different opinions about love. While Proteus stays at home writing his girlfriend terrible poetry, Valentine heads to the big city where he won't have to listen to it. Things get complicated, though, when they develop rather similar opinions about the lovely Silvia.
Meanwhile the girls decide it's not just men who can go on adventures, and set out from home to get their way. But things will become a lot more complicated, and a lot darker, before they can all just call it a day and get married.
- October 2012
Pembroke Players presents PEMBROKE PLAYERS JAPAN TOUR 2012
‘Now, the most important thing you should know about real witches is this. Real witches dress in ordinary clothes, and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses, and they work in ordinary jobs.’ - This summer, the Pembroke Players will tour Japan with their production of Macbeth. Set in Edwardian Britain, in a country house haunted by the absence of a child, where rocking horses move unprovoked, the clocks forever tick and spirits are ever present, the Macbeths are left questioning who and what they can trust as they sacrifice everything for power.
The Pembroke Players Japan Tour is now moving into its sixth consecutive year. Every year the Tour takes a high-quality production of a Shakespeare play to universities, schools, and public theatres across Japan. The tour is based in Tokyo but also gives participants an opportunity to travel and perform in locations outside of the capital - previous destinations have included Yokohama, Kyoto, Nagoya and many others.
- June 2011
The action takes place in the drawing room of Madam Popova's house in the country in 1888. Popova, a pretty widow affectedly faithful to the memory of her late and, alas, promiscuous, husband is confronted by Smirnov, one of her husband's more boorish creditors. They quarrel to a point at which each aims a loaded pistol at the other, but neither can fire. They have both fallen helplessly in love.
This delightful domestic chamber opera will be set in the Round Church, enhancing its surreal comic qualities.
- June 2011
A wealthy landowner, Tschubokov, grants his neighbour, Lomov, permission to propose to his daughter, Stepanovna. However, before a proposal can actually be made, blazing rows break out between the three: over land both families claim to own and over the superiority of each family’s dog. Tschubokov eventually manages to get both to agree to the marriage, whilst curses and insults continue to be hurled across the room.
- June 2008
"The forest is to me a mirror wherein I see another world, a world where all is nameless, unknown, all sick with fear."
Cambridge University Opera Society, in association with the Holst Foundation and Christian Heritage, presents the next show from the creative minds that brought you Les Incas du Pérou, Quadraginta and Don Giovanni.
- April 2008
Easter term sees the unveiling of an exciting new production. Vecchi's 'L'Amfiparnaso' is a classic of Italian musical theatre. First performed in 1594, it's still making audiences laugh over four hundred years later! Come for an evening of gender-bending pratfalls and dodgy jokes, accompanied by some of the sexiest early music you've ever heard. It's like Hollyoaks, but entertaining.
Since the ADC's shut, why not try your hand at a different venue? With the circular ante-chapel and good lighting positions for the altar stage-area, this is sure to be an interesting project with a generous budget.
Please e-mail Tim Jones (tfj24) for information or to apply.
- February 2008
"My noble Christian queen, if I am slain, pray for me."
Travelling through two complementary strands in the life of King Arthur, the characters explore the limits of their romantic world, as ambition, family, honour and love eventually tear it apart. The disintegration of Arthur’s reign, Mordred’s rise to power and the division of loyalties in Camelot are set against a tense equilibrium between the rigid order of moral Christianity and the amoral chaos of ancient magic. The bitterness of the lives of Morgan le Fey and Mordred contrasts the hope offered by Camelot and the romantic beauty of the age.
Comedy, tragedy, devised and scripted, physical and deeply emotive, this medieval play will be set in the atmospheric surroundings of the Round Church. This is one of the oldest buildings in Cambridge, tracing its history back to Norman architecture, and the intimate, ancient feel to the venue offers a really special experience for the actors and their audience to see this adaptation of Malory's 'Le Morte D'Arthur' in an ideal setting.
There will be an adapted Saturday morning family performance with Medieval workshops to follow. Tickets can be pre-booked in person at the church for all performances.
"God does not preside over the duels of adulterers and the low-born, Sir Gawaine, the same way he won’t interfere if a holy man plays a game of dice. "
- March 2007
Enter a Catholic world of blurred edges and deepest shadows. See madmen normalise before your eyes and the civilsed become like animals. Every step you make will be an exercise of will in this promenade performance. Choose between the clown cabaret, the holy romance, or a grotesque homicide. Two things are sure: you cannot see it all and you cannot trust that what you see is true.
- November 2006
“A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face!” The small theocratic community of Salem is stirred in to madness after some young girls are accused of consorting with the devil. A terrifying witch-hunt ensues, fed by superstition, paranoia and malice, culminating in a violent climax. Miller’s classic parable of mass hysteria draws a chilling parallel between the Salem witch-hunt of 1692 and the McCarthyism which gripped America in the 1950s. It is a savage attack on the evils of mindless persecution and the terrifying power of false accusations.
This production is a Cambridge first, as it will be staged in the famous Round Church; performed in-the-round creating a powerful atmosphere which forces the audience to suffer the hysteria themselves.