Opera North Projects

Life Cycle (2011)

By Emily Hall and Toby Litt. 

Life Cycle is a moving, occasionally shocking and ultimately uplifting set of songs about becoming a mother, written by composer Emily Hall and writer/broadcaster Toby Litt, with video designed by Lightmap.

Exquisitely simple melodies and hard edged lyrics bring to life the anxiety and impatience of pregnancy; the shadow of loss; the joy of birth; the wonder and sleep deprivation of having a tiny baby; and finally the ambivalence of watching the baby start to grow up. 

Lasting 40 minutes, the piece is tightly constructed with a literary sense of narrative. Yet in the tradition of the great song cycle, it also takes the listener through an intimate emotional experience. Written for female voice, cello and piano, Life Cycle is built around an exceptional group of performers. Singer Mara Carlyle, whose unforgettable voice mixes fluency with a soaring purity, is joined by cellist extraordinaire and Southbank artist in residence Oliver Coates and pianist John Reid.

Mara Carlyle – Vocals
Olly Coates – Cello
John Reid – Piano
Lightmap – Video design

The Artists

Mara Carlyle is a singer whose debut album The Lovely was released on Matthew Herbert's label in 2004. A track, titled "Pianni", can currently be heard in the IKEA "Happy Inside" television commercial. December 2008 saw the release of Classist, collaboration with composer Max de Wardener under the name "Max de Mara". She has also collaborated with The Guillemots, Plaid and Matthew Herbert.

Emily Hall is a composer mainly focusing on song writing. Emily won the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Award in 2005, before writing a chamber opera in 2006 which got her into song writing. Sante was produced by Aldeburgh Productions and the London Sinfonietta and was described by the Times as “a dynamic new opera, worth everyone's time and hopes”, going on to win the Genesis Opera Prize. She has also written for groups such as the London Sinfonietta, London Symphony Orchestra and the Brodsky Quartet.

Toby Litt is a novelist and author of 10 books, including Ghost Story, Dead Kid Songs and Beatniks. He was named one of Granta Magazine’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ and is a journalist and broadcaster for The Guardian and Radio 4, and regularly appears on Radio 3's The Verb

Lightmap – Netia Jones is a director and video designer in Opera and Theatre, using video, film and projected media in most of her work. She is founder and artistic director of Transition which launched in 2007, an energetic and vibrant performance group which combines live music and opera with new media, video and film. She is also a director of Lightmap, a mixed media partnership with whom she has collaborated on video, film, installation and interactive media projects in the UK, US and Europe.

Olly Coates is a cellist and Artist in Residence at the Southbank Centre, He performs classical and new music as well as writing and recording electronic music for installations and for collaborative projects. He has played at the Wigmore Hall, Barbican, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Kings Place, Wilton’s Music Hall and Tate Modern. He also curates events and plays as guest principal cello with the London Sinfonietta and principal cello with the Aurora Orchestra.

John Reid is a pianist who has given recitals at Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, King’s Place, and the Concertgebouw Amsterdam with artists including Joan Rodgers, Alexander Baillie, Alison Balsom, Jennifer Pike, Sarah Williamson, the Barbirolli Quartet and William Bennett. He has worked with contemporary music groups Radius and the Ossian Ensemble, and is a principal of the Aurora Orchestra. 

The Audience

“Beautifully arranged and the singing was incredible. Incredibly moving.” Audience member

“A very intimate portrait of a mother’s experience.” Audience member

Performance History

Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London
13th  March 2011

The Norwich and Norfolk Festival
11th May 2011

Howard Assembly Room, Leeds
27th May 2011


Get in touch

If you're interested to learn more about any of our initiatives, or would like to get involved, please contact us on...

Phone: +44 (0)113 243 9999
Address: Opera North Grand Theatre,
46 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NU


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