glass human is a new chamber opera exploring themes of loneliness and connection in contemporary society. It will premiere at Glyndebourne on 28 October before touring to venues around England throughout November and December.
The work was created by composer Samantha Fernando and writer and sound artist Melanie Wilson. It is being staged by director Lucy Bailey, whose production of Much Ado About Nothing is currently showing at Shakespeare’s Globe; she will be working alongside designer Joanna Parker and lighting designer Charlotte Burton.
glass human tells the story of three people living alone in the same tower block: a young student living away from home for the first time and hearing an unsettling voice in her head, a Syrian refugee waiting for leave to remain, and an older bereaved man experiencing the first effects of dementia. While fictitious, all three characters are inspired by real people whom the creative team met during their research for the piece.
The opera explores the forces that separate us from each other and the threads we follow to join back together again, as the three isolated voices find their way towards each other, charting a journey from emotional and social fragmentation to connection and meaning.
“The characters reflect three very different experiences of loneliness but also a shared desire to connect with another person,” composer Samantha Fernando commented. “That’s something they are all striving for, something we can all relate to, I think.”
One of the most distinctive elements of the opera is a fourth role known as ‘the sinkhole’. Jointly scored by Fernando and Wilson, the sinkhole acts as a sonic embodiment of loneliness. It starts as a low, subsonic presence and builds in power and volume as the isolation of the characters increases, until it eventually draws them out of their flats to find its source – and each other.
The sinkhole’s electronics feature the voices of real people reflecting on their own experiences of loneliness. Their testimony was recorded by Wilson at a series of workshops in each of the towns and cities visited by the Glyndebourne Tour, meeting with mental health groups, young people, care home residents and others to explore first-hand experiences of loneliness.
Sound artist and writer Melanie Wilson said: “Opera today can take many varied forms, and this project is an example of that multiplicity in its use of electronics, contemporary vocal styles and a horizontal relationship between the instrumentalists and the singers on stage. We are excited to offer our audiences a fresh experience of what opera might feel like.”
Scored for viola, cello, accordion, harp and percussion, glass human will be performed by five musicians from the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra who appear on stage alongside three soloists: soprano Anna Cavaliero as Grace, mezzo-soprano Camille Maalawy as Oma and bass Stephen Bowen as Edward. Performances will be conducted by Ashley Beauchamp.
The opera opens on 28 October at Glyndebourne’s Jerwood Studio, with a second performance the following day. The production then travels to MK Gallery in Milton Keynes (5 November), The Studio at The Marlowe in Canterbury (12 November), Stage Two at the Norwich Theatre Royal (19 November), The Tung Auditorium at the University of Liverpool (26 November) and Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts at the University of Sussex in Brighton (5 December) as part of the Glyndebourne Tour 2022.
Tickets are on sale for all performances and can be purchased via Glyndebourne. The opera lasts approximately 45 minutes and is sung in English.
glass human, a new chamber opera by composer Samantha Fernando (left) and writer and sound artist Melanie Wilson (right), will premiere at Glyndebourne this month (Isabelle Rose Povey (left) and Alexander Brattel (right)).