A new chamber opera, Pleasure, a family tragedy played out against the backdrop of a gay nightclub, will receive its world premiere at Opera North in Leeds in 2016, with further dates in Liverpool, Aldeburgh and London.
Created by the young composer Mark Simpson and writer Melanie Challenger, Pleasure is the fourth new opera commissioned and produced as part of a three-year partnership between Aldeburgh Music, The Royal Opera and Opera North, designed to boost opportunities for emerging opera writers, and bring new work to audiences across the UK.
The opera tells the story of Val, who works as an attendant in the toilets in Pleasure, a hedonistic gay club in the north of England, presided over by the Bacchanalian drag queen Anna Fewmore. For years, Val has been both a shoulder to cry on and a confidante. She is much-loved, but viewed as an enigma. Why is she still there? Why does she never leave? When Nathan, a beautiful and unpredictable young man, arrives in Pleasure and leaves a gift for Val, it marks the beginning of an emotional and violent night.
Tim Albery directs, with set and costume designs by Leslie Travers; a creative pairing whose previous work together has included award-winning productions of Otello (2013) and Giulio Cesare (2012) at Opera North, and Aldeburgh Music’s open-air staging of Grimes on the Beach (2013) marking Benjamin Britten’s centenary. Tim Albery has also directed numerous productions at The Royal Opera, including and Tannhäuser.
Pleasure will be performed by a cast of four singers including soprano Lesley Garrett as Val, alongside the Manchester-based music ensemble Psappha, conducted by Nicholas Kok.
One of the UK’s most exciting young musical talents, Mark Simpson was born in Liverpool in 1988. He won BBC Young Musician of the Year as a clarinettist in 2006 and also, that same year, received the accolade of BBC Young Composer of the year – the only individual to have won both competitions. He was recently named Composer in Association with the BBC Philharmonic, and his new work for orchestra and chorus, The Immortal, will premiere at Manchester International Festival in July 2015, again set to a libretto by Melanie Challenger. Pleasure is his first opera.
The world premiere of Pleasure will be at the Howard Assembly Room at Opera North, Leeds in April 2016, before the production tours to the Liverpool Playhouse, the Britten Studio at Aldeburgh Music, Snape Maltings, and the Lyric Hammersmith in London.