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Mark Simpson: Pleasure premiere and new CD

(February 2016)

2016 sees the premiere of Mark Simpson’s first opera, a new CD on NMC and his ongoing residency with the BBC Philharmonic

The double career of young composer and clarinettist Mark Simpson continues on an upward trajectory, with the world premiere of his opera, Pleasure, promising to be a season highlight. Scored for four singers and 10 instrumentalists, the stagework is unveiled by Opera North in Leeds on 28 April, travelling on to Simpson’s native city of Liverpool, then south to Aldeburgh and the Lyric Hammersmith in London presented by The Royal Opera. The eight performances are staged by Tim Albery with the Psappha Ensemble conducted by Nicholas Kok.

For this first opera Mark Simpson has worked with writer Melanie Challenger, following the close collaboration on their ‘afterlife’ oratorio, The Immortal, premiered to great acclaim at the Manchester International Festival last year. The central character of Pleasure is Val, a toilet attendant at a gay nightclub – played by soprano Lesley Garrett – who is trapped in a hedonistic underworld by her memories. In true mythic fashion the net closes, as the drama is propelled to a dark conclusion.

The music for Pleasure sits between opera and musical theatre, moving from the pleasure-seeking exuberance of the club, via outrageous cabaret to personal tragedy. The work has grown through a ten-year gestation, from Simpson’s first ideas as a teenager experiencing Liverpool’s club scene, through discussions with Melanie Challenger, to commissioning and composition of the opera, whose premiere will mark a personal milestone for the 27-year-old composer.

Due for release in May is the first all-Simpson recording, collecting together ensemble and chamber works on the NMC label. Perfomers include Nicholas Daniel, Leonard Elschenbroich, Guy Johnston, Richard Uttley, Ensemble 10:10 under Clark Rundell, the Mercury Quartet and Simpson himself on clarinet. Last year saw Simpson perform Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto at the BBC Proms and join solo artists Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Isabelle Faust and Jean-Guihen Queyras for Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time at the Aldeburgh Festival. He will form a trio with Aimard and Antoine Tamestit for his new Hommage à Kurtág commissioned by the Salzburg Festival for premiere this summer.

Simpson’s Composer in Association role with the BBC Philharmonic continues this month with the orchestral fanfare sparks conducted by Nicholas Collon and a solo role in Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto under the baton of HK Gruber. Orchestral works to date by the young composer also include A mirror-fragment…, Threads and the dramatic concert-opener Israfel, premiered last year by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Litton. Commission plans within Simpson’s BBC Philharmonic residency include a new Cello Concerto for Leonard Elschenbroich scheduled for premiere in 2017.

For further information on the composer visit www.boosey.com/simpson.

> Pleasure at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds  28/29/30 April 2016
> Pleasure at Liverpool Playhouse  4 May 
> Pleasure at Snape, Aldeburgh  7 May
> Pleasure at Lyric Hammersmith, London  12/13/14 May



> Further information on Work: Pleasure

Image: Opera North

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