Fringe Box



Grange Park Opera Planning to Stage Their Operatic Discovery in 2024

Published on: 11 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 9 Apr, 2020


By Alice Fowler

Guildford’s local opera house, Grange Park Opera, has discovered an unstaged work by major British composer, Sir John Tavener.

One of the most acclaimed British composers of the post-war years, Tavener (1944–2013) was admired by leading figures from HRH The Prince of Wales to the Beatles and Icelandic singer Bjork.

His opera, entitled Krishna, was completed in 2005 but has remained in manuscript form, unstaged, for 14 years. It has come to light thanks to an intervention by The Prince of Wales, who had a long friendship with Tavener.
“It quickly became clear this was a masterpiece that needed to be brought to life,” says Wasfi Kani, founder and CEO of Grange Park Opera, based at West Horsley Place.

The work focuses on the cycle of Krishna’s life, portrayed in 15 vignettes. It was discovered thanks to the composer’s widow, Lady Tavener, who brought it to the attention of the Prince of Wales. He, in turn, asked Sir David Pountney, a giant of the opera world, to consider its performance potential. Pountney will direct its first-ever performance at Grange Park Opera’s Theatre in the Woods – a five-tiered, 700-seat opera house on the 14th century estate – in 2024.

Tavener and the Prince of Wales shared views on the importance of all religious traditions. The text of the two-and-a-half-hour work is Tavener’s own, expounding a Blakean philosophy that in any part of the universe is the whole universe. Over the 15 vignettes, we see Krishna born when the earth is crying for help and finally assumed into Paradise until the earth needs him again.

The work uses a ‘Celestial Narrator’ as a ‘bridge’ between the supernatural and the natural. Tavener wrote: “He describes each scene in the simplest possible way. He moves freely in the audience, explaining the double meaning, charming, frightening and consoling us. The music is intensely vivid and highly dramatic”.
There are challenging aspects to the work’s staging. For example, Krishna is given a ‘halo’ of eight flutes (four of them alto flutes) which are to be “aerially positioned”.

“David Pountney brought me the project and within two days I was at Chester Music examining the 358 giant sheets of Tavener’s manuscript,” Kani reveals. “We are now actively searching for collaborators to give premières in Europe and, of course, in India. The search for Indian philanthropists begins”.

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