Pioneering opera fuses live performance and technology at MediaCityUK
Cutting-edge technology and dazzling live performance will bring the café society of 1930s Vienna and the steamy terraces of Brazil to MediaCityUK on 20 September, when the University of Salford premieres a radical new chamber opera celebrating the life of one of 20th Century Europe’s most famous authors.
Commissioned by the University, Stefan and Lotte in Paradise is a free one-hour performance, written by Salford academic and composer Dr Alan Williams and Brazilian composer Dr Marcos Lucas, which chronicles the last few months of the life of Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte, who both committed suicide in 1942, in despair at future of humanity and the rise of Nazism.
At one time the most translated author in the world, Zweig was forced to leave Austria in 1934 soon after the rise to power in Germany of Hitler, living in England and New York before moving to Brazil in 1940. The libretto for Stefan and Lotte in Paradise was written by prize-winning playwright Philip Goulding and deals with the themes of persecution, migration and exile, while the music includes fragments of Zweig’s collection of scores by Mozart, Schubert, Brahms and many other composers which are now housed at the British Library; Klezmer, an Eastern European Jewish folk music style; and the sounds of Brazil.
The performance will allow audiences in separate areas of the University’s MediaCityUK building to experience the opera in distinctly different ways by making the most of the state-of-the-art facilities in different parts of the venue. Live action will be combined with digital projection and music performed by Psappha, one of the UK’s leading contemporary music ensembles.
Taking the main roles will be baritone Jeremy Huw Williams as Stefan Zweig, soprano Zoe Milton-Brown (Lotte Zweig), and baritone Richard Strivens, playing the Zweigs’ friend and fellow émigré Ernst Feder. Mark Babych directs, Gavin Wayte conducts the ensemble and Joe Stathers-Tracey will create the projected imagery.
The live action opera will take place in front an audience in the campus’ Digital Performance Laboratory, an innovative performance space with one of Europe’s largest high resolution projection screens, which will enable rapid scene changes featuring stunning video imagery.
At the same time, a second group of guests will experience a live transmission of the performance relayed to a huge, high resolution video wall in the building’s ‘Egg’ area, a ground floor space incorporating a range of digital, interactive technologies. They will also be able to use touchscreen tables to explore online content about the libretto, allowing them to be part of an exciting, immersive theatre experience.
Although Zweig’s work was hugely popular in the USA and South America, and remains so in continental Europe today, the author is little-known in Britain. Dr Williams believes that Zweig’s life and writing deserve greater exposure and are of profound importance to the modern world, particularly given the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.
Dr Williams said: “Stefan Zweig’s reputation is undergoing a renaissance in the English-speaking world, thanks to reissues of many of his major works and recent endorsements by public figures such as England football manager Roy Hodgson and novelist William Boyd. But the opera is also timely in that emigration and cultural displacement is affecting all aspects of our society.”
Stefan and Lotte in Paradise will be staged at the University of Salford, MediaCityUK, Salford, M50 2HE, on Thursday 20 September at 8.30pm. To register for the free performance go to https://supporters.salford.ac.uk/stefanandlotte or phone 0161 295 5241.
A further performance is planned at Manchester Jewish Museum later this year.
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