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Interview with opera composer, Jonathan Dove

1 May 2015 | Laura Stevens

London Calling caught up with opera composer, Jonathan Dove, whose work 'Flight' is being performed at Opera Holland Park. He talked about his excitement for the show, getting young people into opera and the latest production of Swanhunter.

London Calling: What drew you to the true story behind Flight?

Jonathan Dove: Well you already know the true story of the refugee who lived in Charles de Gaul airport for about 17 years. The Terminal came after – the opera came first!

It hugely magnifies the feeling of being stranded between worlds that we get a small experience of when we surrender our baggage and our identity and go through to departures.

LC: How do you feel about the opera now?

JD: Well I get to find out in June when it opens! It has been done all over the world, and I haven’t seen every production. The most recent one was in Austin, Texas and I think every time there is new light shed on the performance.

Sometimes it can be very funny and sometimes it can be very dream like.

There’s always a different chemistry in different performing spaces. In Holland Park I think it will seem very lively, you’re certainly closer to the singers.

LC: So you’re pretty excited about Flight being performed at Holland Park?

JD: It’s a wonderful company with great singers, and it’s in London!

It’s now 16 years since Flight was performed at Glyndebourne, and ten years since it was revived.

There are people that go to both Glyndebourne and Holland Park but that’s quite expensive so it’s very exciting for me to have a new audience, and perhaps people who aren’t so used to seeing opera. Or people who have maybe discovered opera recently.

This is something I feel pleased about - people often tell me that my work is a very good introduction for somebody who’s not been to opera before.

LC: Do you think enough is being done to encourage young people to get into opera?

JD: I think there’s probably more to do, and I think opera can exist in lots of different ways and different contexts. I mean I’m certainly interested in exploring that – community operas, performing outside the opera house – and you can bring opera productions on a different scale to places who don’t have an opera house or to people who couldn’t afford to go even if there was one.

I think probably the generation that is growing up has had very little exposure to any kind of classical music and so from that point of view there’s always more to do.

LC: What did you think of the latest production of Swanhunter at the Royal Opera House?

JD: Oh they’re terrific! I’m going to see it again tonight.

I saw it three times at the Opera House. It is a luxury to see one’s work in different productions with different qualities being brought forward. This is quite a playful production I would say. The storytelling was really clear and it was very engaging with the use of puppets. They managed to train the cast to operate them and it’s fantastic I think.

LC: What is your favourite opera?

JD: I’ve written rather a lot now! I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Flight as it was the first main house opera I wrote with a full professional company, orchestra and ensemble cast. It opened doors - everything else that followed was laid on by that piece. So it was a turning point for me.

Investec Opera Holland Park 2015 Season is on June 2 to August 1. Flight is on June 6, 10, 12, 17 and 19. For the full line up and more information click here.

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