White Star

Written as part of the RCM's 'Great Expectations' project, in association with Tête à Tête, the brief for this short chamber opera was that it should be based on the Titanic disaster in some way, to mark the tragic event's centenary. After several meetings with the librettist, Alex Knox, we decided to draw upon the common themes between the Titanic disaster and the more recent financial collapse: unnecessary risks, greed, the arrogant belief in something 'unsinkable', and the 'bailing out' of those behind the decisions. Hence the setting of our scene in a the ‘White Star’ bank.

The work revolves around three characters - Ms. Ismay, the ruthless boss of White Star Bank, the Intern, a young, impressionable character, desperate to prove himself, and Ms. Ismay's secretary Emma Freeman, a young, sympathetic character, timid by nature, but who ultimately stands up for her strong morals. Despite being set in a private office of 'White Star' bank, there is a surreal element to the scene from the start as we join the characters in the midst of a game of ‘21’. The Intern is on a losing streak and Emma reluctantly acts as croupier while Ms. Ismay pushes the Intern to keep gambling.

Throughout the scene it becomes apparent, through Emma’s concerns, that the poker chips with which they are gambling represent real money, putting people’s lives at stake, and that their high risk strategy is bound to fail. However, the Intern ignores Emma’s increasingly desperate pleas to his conscience, and continues to keep betting against the odds, as proof of his commitment to the bank. By the end of the scene, after some secretive phonecalls to her superior, it becomes clear why Ms. Ismay was so insistent on this high-risk strategy, and so indifferent to the consequences...

Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Tenor, Flute, Saxophone, Harp, Percussion, String Trio
Commissioned by Villiers Quartet
Year 2013
Length 15'
Premiere:
- RCM Opera School
Britten Theatre
May 2013

Stacks Image 4117