Seven Angels opera tackles Paradise Lost
Composer Luke Bedford uses Milton’s epic to explore envorinmental themes
According to Wikipedia, there are over ten thousand individual lines of verse in Milton’s Paradise Lost. That’s a bit much for an opera. So, for his new Seven Angels, leading young British composer Luke Bedford uses Milton’s epic as the starting point for a piece that takes a modern look at a world with climate change and diminishing resources and the resultant apocalyptic consequences. ‘To turn the entire poem into an opera would be ridiculous,’ says Bedford, ‘but it forms a template, or backcloth, to our story.’
The story told is of seven angels who fall through space and time and arrive at a landscape, wondering why it is deserted. ‘It is their story of the end of the world,’ says Bedford. ‘The king and queen have a son, a prince to whom they give everything, but he becomes immensely fat. There are elements of Paradise Lost, but it is our own take on it. The angels are the narrators of the story.’
The origins of Seven Angels were born five years ago, when Bedford – who has form in turning to Milton, either setting his words or borrowing them for titles, such as his BBC orchestral commission Rode with Darkness – along with librettist Glyn Maxwell and director John Fulljames started throwing ideas around. ‘We settled on Paradise Lost very early on,’ says Bedford, ‘and then in 2009 we had our first workshop session and I wrote some tiny bits. It was almost like tricking yourself into starting to write the piece. Previously, I’d not written anything longer than 20 minutes, so with the 90 minutes of Seven Angels, it’s quite a jump up.’ With rising star conductor Nicholas Collon, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and an impressive cast, it’s unlikely that anyone will be looking at their watch to check.
Tramway, Glasgow, Tue 28 and Wed 29 Jun