Opera North Blog

Amy’s Last Dive: Diary of an Opera

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Composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad updates on the progress of her new opera, Amy's Last Dive

For the past six months now I’ve been writing the music to an opera about Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly to Australia. Conceived and written by Adam Strickson, the opera looks back at her tempestuous life, and asks how her racy and risky journey relates to modern day ambitions and expectations. The opera is part of iMove, Yorkshire cultural programme for London 2012, and it will be performed in Leeds on the 27th and 28th of June, and in Bridlington on the 6th July.

At the end of last week I sent off the piano score of just over and hour’s worth of music. This forms the complete main section of the opera, which is scored for three singers and 8 musicains. There is still about half an hour of music to write for a Prologue and Interlude, which will feature a local Bridlington choir, and many young actors and dancers. 

Since beginning to write this opera I’ve been living out in the countryside, without a landline, television or the internet. It’s been an all-consuming piece of work - and having written over an hour of music since December (I usually average about an hour of music per year), it’s been quite an experience. 

In order to get inspiration for this opera I’ve a variety of experiences! I (nearly) flew a Gypsy Moth, have read books about thermal air currents and how to recognise them, became a temporary expert on the art of blind flying, have transcribed five Lily Allen songs, a great deal of 1930’s band music, listened (too many times!) to every No. 1 chart hit of 2010, researched traditional Iraqi rhythms, and read a whole dissertation about David Beckham’s accent. 

Over the last few months, I’ve been writing a blog documenting a variety of inane and perhaps less inane thoughts and observations about the opera writing process and what it does to one's life and mind: if you are interested you can read it here. I hope you enjoy it!

Cheryl Frances-Hoad

Cheryl Frances-Hoad was appointed the first DARE Cultural Fellow in Opera Related Arts in 2010. This prestigious two year fellowship within the University of Leeds’ Academy of Cultural Fellows and in association with Opera North, recognises the importance of the contribution of talented young arts practitioners to our cultural life. The DARE Cultural Fellowship in Opera Related Arts is funded by the Opera North Future Fund.

DARE is Opera North's unique collaboration with the University of Leeds. Find out more at http://www.dareyou.org.uk/

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