Will Gregory composes debut opera for BBC Concert Orchestra: Piccard In Space
Will Gregory's debut opera, Piccard In Space, commissioned by the BBC, will receive its world premiere from the BBC Concert Orchestra in a semi-staged production directed by Southbank Centre's Jude Kelly as part of Ether Festival – full details of which will be announced in February 2011. It will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Composer, saxophonist and keyboard player Will Gregory has long been known as one half of Electro-pop duo Goldfrapp, with whom he has achieved huge commercial success. His relationship with the BBC Concert Orchestra stretches back to 2007 when they teamed up for a performance of his score to Victor Sjöström's 1924 silent-movie classic He Who Gets Slapped.
Piccard In Space is a dramatisation and celebration of Belgian physicist August Piccard's first successful flight into the stratosphere, as he attempted to prove Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Travelling to a record-breaking 51,000 feet in a capsule, Piccard and his assistant embarked on a dangerous journey which saw them survive being roasted by the sun, toxic balls of mercury and crashing into the Alps. Piccard's adventures became front-page news in 1931 and his legendary character and achievements were the inspiration for Hergé's cartoon character Professor Calculus in The Adventures Of Tintin series.
Piccard In Space features Will's own Moog Ensemble, the 56-piece BBC Concert Orchestra, the 16 singers of Kipfer's Cosmic Choir and soloists including Andrew Shore (as August Piccard) and Robin Tritschler (as Paul Kipfer).
The visual element is provided by interdisciplinary artist Kathy Hinde, renowned for creating innovative video projections. Here she creates an interactive visual environment that is responsive to the live event as it happens.
Piccard In Space forms Part 2 of Electronica – the BBC Concert Orchestra's ground-breaking exploration of electric instruments.
Electronica Part 1 took place in October 2010 and explored the evolution of electronic instruments and futuristic influences on modern music. The concert featured instruments such as Moogs, theramins and ondes martenots. The performance was presented by Jarvis Cocker and included music by composers Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), Will Gregory (Goldfrapp) and Anne Dudley.
Andrew Connolly, General Manager of the BBC Concert Orchestra, says: "Auguste Piccard's story is full of twists and turns – or maybe that should be highs and lows! – and I am excited by the thought of soon experiencing Will Gregory and the creative team's realisation of the extraordinary exploits of this generally little-known scientific pioneer.
"This is Will's first full length commission for BBC Radio 3 and with Jude Kelly as director and Charles Hazlewood as conductor, we have reunited the protagonists at the heart of Lost In The Stars, our most recent staged production with the Southbank Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hall."
Notes to Editors
Will Gregory: London-born Will Gregory is a composer, keyboard player and saxophonist, and co-member (with vocalist Alison Goldfrapp) of the electronic music duo Goldfrapp. He studied Music at York University and during the 1980s performed with Tears For Fears, The Cure, Portishead, Peter Gabriel, Paula Rae Gibson and Tori Amos. As a saxophonist he has worked with Michael Nyman, John Adams (playing in the first performances of the opera Nixon In China), space rock band Spiritualized and the Apollo Saxophone Quartet. But it is his Goldfrapp association that has given Will Gregory the most commercial and artistic success. The duo's 2000 album Felt Mountain was shortlisted for that year's Mercury Prize; Black Cherry (2003), Supernature (2005), Seventh Tree (2008), Head First (2010) continued to evolve Goldfrapp's mash-up of electronics, synthpop, and musique concrete without anyone particularly recognising the joins. In August this year Goldfrapp released Goldfrapp Pinball, an iPhone App that synchronises tracks from Head First to a pinball game.
BBC Concert Orchestra: the BBC Concert Orchestra is one of the country's most versatile ensembles. For more than half a century it's been the house orchestra for BBC Radio 2's Friday Night Is Music Night, and gives regular broadcasts on BBC Radio 3. Its work can be heard on soundtracks to many BBC TV programmes including The Blue Planet and Walking With Dinosaurs. The orchestra is a regular at the BBC Proms, Electric Proms and Proms In The Park, and has worked with artists including Dame Shirley Bassey, Maxim Vengerov, Kavita Krishnamurti, Pet Shop Boys, Jonny Greenwood, Nigel Kennedy, Bryn Terfel and Burt Bacharach.
Ether Festival: Ether is Southbank Centre's annual music festival of innovation, art, technology and cross-arts experimentation. Now firmly established as a much-anticipated and wildly eclectic Festival, Ether returns in 2011 to celebrate its 10th birthday, running from 24 March to 10 April,with the full programme to be announced soon.