Opera North has revealed that Jasdeep Singh Degun is the Leeds-based opera company’s new Artist in Residence.
Born and raised in Leeds, Singh Degun is a virtuoso sitarist and composer. He has written, arranged and produced music for a diverse array of projects and soundtracks, including music for orchestra, contemporary classical ensembles and high-profile music productions.
Opera North’s Artist in Residence is a new 18-month programme for a lead artist from a non-Western tradition. The residency will give Singh Degun presence and influence across the company’s many platforms and stages – including its digital work and its engagement with new and existing artists and audiences, children and young people, students and the wider community.
He will attend meetings of the planning and senior management teams, and collaborate with the main producing areas of the company, including the orchestra and chorus, Opera North’s chamber venue the Howard Assembly Room, and its education department.
The scheme will allow Singh Degun to develop meaningful conversations and fully realised programmes with Opera North, while still pursuing his own freelance projects and touring.
The new residency is part of Opera North’s “ongoing commitment to embed diversity at the heart of our artistic decision-making. The scheme will create new musical encounters and bring unique ideas and perspectives to the full range of our work, to ensure that its stages reflect the many and diverse communities it reaches,” the company said in a statement.
Singh Degun’s relationship with Opera North began in 2017, when he became musical director of the company’s first Resonance workshops, working on India’s Children: Partition, a new production commissioned by Opera North and South Asian Arts-uk to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the division of India and Pakistan.
He went on to compose the sitar concerto Arya for the Orchestra of Opera North, performing as soloist in its premiere at Huddersfield Town Hall and touring to Durham and Manchester just before lockdown in 2020.
Jaseep Singh Degun is currently working with baroque specialist Laurence Cummings as joint musical director, composer, arranger and performer on a new production of Orpheus (1607). This ambitious new reimagining of Monteverdi’s masterpiece – a collaboration between Opera North and South Asian Arts-uk – brings together South Asian and western classical traditions. It forms part of Opera North’s 2022-23 season.
In May, Real World Records released his long-awaited debut album Anomaly to critical acclaim. The record was produced under the mentorship of Nitin Sawhney and features collaborations with artists from both western and Indian classical backgrounds.
“I’m very grateful to Opera North for appointing me as Artist in Residence,” Jasdeep Singh Degun commented. “Enabled by our mutual trust and willingness to venture outside of our respective musical worlds, it has been an honour to work with the company over the last five years.
“As part of the closely knit creative team for Orpheus, I’m excited to be further exploring the territory between my own tradition and Western classical music, and I’m very much looking forward to being even more closely involved in Opera North’s work over the next 18 months!”
The sitarist’s residency at Opera North will run until October 2023. The initiative will aim to celebrate and reinforce his long-standing collaborative relationship with the company, and to open up new creative ground for both Singh Degun and Opera North.
Opera North and SAA-uk’s Orpheus, with musical direction, arranging and performance from Jasdeep Singh Degun, opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on 14 October, before touring to Theatre Royal Newcastle, Theatre Royal Nottingham and the Lowry, Salford Keys.
Richard Mantle, Opera North’s general director, added: “I am delighted that we have restored the role of Artist in Residence, which will bring a fresh and fruitful dimension to our work. We very much welcome Jasdeep to the Opera North team at such an exciting time for us, as we continue to embed diversity at the heart of the company.”
Jasdeep Singh Degun, Opera North’s new Artist in Residence, performs at the premiere of Arya with the Orchestra of Opera North, Huddersfield, in February 2020 (Justin Slee).