Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline takes the London stage
After a sell-out run by the Royal Opera in London, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s new opera for family audiences travels on to Freiburg, Lille, Stockholm and Melbourne.
Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasy Coraline has found a successful new guise as an opera for family audiences, composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage to a libretto by Rory Mullarkey. The Royal Opera’s staging in March at the Barbican Theatre, conducted by Sian Edwards, attracted capacity audiences and is set to travel to Theater Freiburg this month, Opera de Lille in November, and Folkoperan (Stockholm) and Victorian Opera (Melbourne) in future seasons, performed with German, French and Swedish singing translations.
Turnage was drawn to Neil Gaiman’s novella because of its imagination, mystery and lively characterisation: “The idea of a seductive alternative reality that is increasingly scary is very interesting psychologically, allowing me to explore situations, ideas and emotions through my music. Also, crucially, this is an important story in having a female lead – for me Coraline is a fantastic role model.”
"Terrific performances and special effects ensure children in the audience love Mark-Anthony Turnage’s take on the cult novella... Coraline's exploration of her parents’ new home takes her into a parallel world beyond a bricked-up doorway in her parents’ drawing room. The Other World seemingly offers limitless comfort and enjoyment, but its inhabitants mysteriously have buttons sewn over their eyes, and it soon becomes apparent that the love offered by Coraline’s Other Mother and Father is sinister in its controlling possessiveness."
“The question for the composer is how dark to go. Using just 16 musicians, Turnage finds endless resource, especially in his ever piquant combinations of wind instruments. He is good at catching the busyness of humdrum suburban life in music that is entertainingly frothy, and there are some spooky sounds emanating from the other world beyond… In bringing it to life, The Royal Opera has not put a foot wrong… Aletta Collins, the director, has delivered on all the story’s creepy special effects. The runaway hand in the final scene gets a gasp of delighted horror.”
“Turnage’s opera captures the spooky essence of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline…”
"Young and old alike were gripped every witch way by Mark-Anthony Turnage's vivid fairy-tale opera... Numerous accompanied children were present when I attended, but plenty of unaccompanied adults too... a real, moment-by-moment engagement with characters and drama... There's more than a tincture of middle-period Stravinsky in Turnage's writing. But the reminiscences (superbly off-beam chording) are marvellous in their way... an extremely skilful score."
"...a highly effective piece for the stage... The distinctive and colourful score, infused with jazzy harmonies and rhythms, is full of energy, exuding an almost childish sense of joie de vivre. Vocal lines are syllabic, enabling the words to be heard and understood by even the youngest of listeners, and are underpinned by dance rhythms which are never less than engaging... Opera surely can't be understood and enjoyed by the under 12s? Coraline proves otherwise."
“Mark-Anthony Turnage once again proves to be a composer with a knack for popular material… The music is accessible, suitable for the stage, and also truly singable… The premiere saw the audience of all ages hanging on the lips of the singers… The coproduction partners in Stockholm, Lille, Freiburg and Melbourne can look forward to a success story.”
In addition to international performances of Coraline, next season brings a new production of Anna Nicole in Nuremburg. The world premiere of Turnage’s Testament for soprano and orchestra, setting Ukrainian poetry by Taras Shevchenko, is conducted by Kiril Karabits in November with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, travelling on the following month to the Staatskapelle Weimar.
> Further information on Work: Coraline
Photo: Philip Gatward