U.K.'s Punchdrunk to Collaborate with English National Opera on The Duchess of Malfi

News   U.K.'s Punchdrunk to Collaborate with English National Opera on The Duchess of Malfi
 
Innovative British theatre company Punchdrunk will join forces with English National Opera for their first immersive opera event — placing the audience within the action. The companies will stage the world premiere of a new operatic version of The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster's 17th-century tragedy of love, incest and murder.

The opera, commissioned by ENO from composer Torsten Rasch with a libretto by Ian Burton, marks Punchdrunk's first exploration in opera, and will be performed at a vacant site at Great Estern Quay in London's Royal Albert Basin, Newham, in London, beginning a run of 13 performances July 13.

Punchdrunk's artistic director Felix Barrett will make his ENO debut, directing a cast of 17 performers, with Punchdrunk associate director Maxine Doyle directing and choreographing alongside him.

According to the companies, ENO and Punchdrunk's work shares similar ambitions: to reach out to new audiences through highly individual artistic programs. Punchdrunk, formed in 2000 with the aim of creating a new form of theatre experience that places the audience at the heart of the action, have previously created Faust (Wapping Lane, 2006-07), The Masque of the Red Death (Battersea Old Town Hall, 2007-08), It Felt Like A Kiss (Manchester International Festival, 2009) and Sleep No More (Boston, USA, 2009-10).

In The Duchess of Malfi, the audience will be free to take its own journey through a unique musical and physical narrative. While this is Punchdrunk's first exploration with opera, the company describes its existing body of epic works as closer to the operatic form than any other and considers this project as a natural continuation of that work. Barrett said in a statement, "We are thrilled to be collaborating with ENO on this project and to have the opportunity to work with a full operatic score and with live musicians and singers. This is a natural and extraordinary progression for our work."

Composer Rasch has composed for the Dresdner Sinfoniker, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, after first establishing himself as a successful composer of film and television scores. His first opera, Rotter, was commissioned by Oper Köln and premiered in 2008. Last year the Royal Festival Hall presented his 2003 work Mein Herz brennt, a 65-minute work that takes its text and musical inspiration from the hugely popular German industrial metal band Rammstein. The Duchess of Malfi is being presented here as part of CREATE 10, the second year of a new major annual summer festival running across the five Olympic boroughs of Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. CREATE promotes and supports the work of leading local artists and companies such as Punchdrunk and aspires to be what Manchester International Festival was to the Commonwealth Games for the Olympics and the East End of London.

To register for an alert for when tickets go on sale, visit www.eno.org/punchdrunk

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