RNCM Opera: Mansfield Park
How do you set a classic novel to music? Moreover, how do you set that most popular of English novelists, Jane Austen, to music?
Jonathan Dove said that he ‘heard music’ when he first read Mansfield Park. With leading British opera librettist and playwright, Alasdair Middleton, he set about adapting this classic novel, and from the first words sung by the whole company, ‘Mansfield Park, Chapter One’, there is a strong narrative drive, impeccable vocal writing and wonderful ensembles that
sparkle with style and wit.
This composition has the distinction of being the first completed operatic adaptation of any Jane Austen novel ever to be staged. Commissioned by Heritage Opera Company in 2011 as a site specific piece to be performed in stately homes, it has 10 solo roles accompanied by an intimate chamber orchestra.
In a 2017 interview in the Guardian, Dove said that ’Fanny Price’s pained silences gave me the impulse to write music for her’. He picked up the musicality of Austen’s writing and, in conjunction with Alasdair Middleton, created a witty and accessible interpretation. The music is an enjoyably eclectic mix of styles from classical pastiche to Philip Glass by way of the soaringly romantic, as well as hints of Benjamin Britten and even Stephen Sondheim.
This is a love story at heart, as Fanny Price and the other residents of Mansfield Park and their friends overcome hurdles to find true love and happiness during the course of the opera’s 18 chapters. There are all sorts of repressed emotions – symbolised by the formality and constraints of the ‘Big House’ – and it can also be seen as a prophetic social panorama, with its underlying clash of moralities as old Tory ‘decency’ goes head to head with nouveau riche opportunism.
Music by Jonathan Dove
Libretto by Alasdair Middleton based on the novel by Jane Austen
Music (c) 2011 by Peters Edition Limited, London Libretto (c) 2011 by Alasdair Middleton
Licensed by Peters Edition Limited, London. All Rights Reserved.
Red Cast Performances Sunday 26 March and Thursday 30 March
Blue Cast Performances Tuesday 28 March and Saturday 1 April
Artwork credit: Aaron Groves
£12.50 (Under 26s and Students)
Cast & Creatives
Olivia Tringham Fanny Price
Rebecca Anderson Lady Bertram
Jonathan Hill Sir Thomas Bertram
Jessica Hopkins Maria Bertram
Sarah Winn Julia Bertram
Conrad Chatterton Edmund Bertram
Christina Orjis Aunt Norris
Anusha Bobby Mary Crawford
Henry Strutt Henry Crawford
Liam Forrest Mr Rushworth
Morgana Warren-Jones Fanny Price
Leah McCabe Lady Bertram
Alexander Gibb Sir Thomas Bertram
Jodie Li-Smith Maria Bertram
Olivia Hamblyn Julia Bertram
James Connolly Edmund Bertram
Taylor London Aunt Norris
Hannah O’Brien Mary Crawford
Yihui Wang Henry Crawford
Samuel Horton Mr Rushworth
Lee Reynolds conductor
Stephen Barlow director
Yannis Thavoris designer
Jason Taylor lighting designer