A Chelsea Pensioner walks among the ceramic poppies which form the Tower of London's commemoration of the beginning of World War One.


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Submitted by peterwhittle on Mon, 2014-08-04 16:25.

Pincher Martin

In the Times today, Geoff Brown gives a four-star review to Pincher Martin, the new one-act opera by Oliver Rudland

Chalk up one more British opera soaked in the wake of Peter Grimes. Sea sounds are everywhere: gulls crying, the waves’ rolling thunder, growlings from the ocean floor. There’s also the visual component: video footage of monster swells, exploding warships — all in aid of another uncomfortable story taken from a literary source, William Golding’s Pincher Martin.

The composer Oliver Rudland, just over 30, took a gamble in wresting his third opera from an existential novel exploring the levels of consciousness in a torpedoed Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the Second World War; a novel, moreover, with much aqueous music in its prose. But the gamble paid off handsomely. This is an eloquent, succinct opera that creates much more pleasure than you’d imagine from the spectacle of an unlikeable egotist besieged by hallucinations on an Atlantic rock.

In the Royal College of Music’s Britten Theatre, the cast, it’s true, didn’t always make their words distinct. Yet the drama of the moment still drove us on. Britten’s direct influence popped up occasionally, as did John Adams: friendly visitors in a tonality-washed score that offered Miles Horner’s damaged hero and the figments of his mind plenty of lyrical ammunition. Indeed Colette Boushell sang so exquisitely that I wanted much more of her character, a peacetime victim of Martin’s jealousy and lust. In the pit, Mark Austin’s Faust Ensemble incisively handled Rudland’s individual scoring — string textures flecked with lone brass notes, percussion shivers and droplets of harp.

What a joy, too, to find music and film seamlessly integrated. I wasn’t so convinced of the rock encrustations creeping over scattered props: a perky green car, desk, a grandfather clock. But it didn’t much matter: in music and design, if not always in words, Pincher Martin pinched and gripped. This opera deserves to live.

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Submitted by peterwhittle on Wed, 2014-07-30 16:31.

July 22nd NCF Event

You are invited to hear

Anne Marie Waters, founder of Sahria Watch, speaking on

One Law for All?

Sharia law in Britain


on Tuesday July 22nd 6.30pm to 8pm

55 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QL


Writer and human rights activist Anne Marie Waters recently founded Sharia Watch, , a new campaigning group which aims to challenge the growth in influence of Sharia law in Britain, whether through formal and informal Sharia courts or by integration into existing institutions. She was previously spokesperson for the One Law for All campaign, and a council member of the National Secular Society.

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Submitted by peterwhittle on Thu, 2014-07-10 09:58.

Opera is Not Just Our Most Expensive Noise

In the current edition of Standpoint, Roger Scruton writes that 'opera is a crown to be won, a sign that the composer has finally stuck his head above the clouds on Mount Olympus.'

In this article, which can be read in full here, Scruton gives a beautifully considered explanation and defence of opera. He highlights in particular the work of rising young composer Oliver Rudland (right), whose new one-act opera, Pincher Martin, has its premiere at the Royal College of Music on July 24th:

'...Sacred things are especially intolerable to those who no longer believe in them. An urge to desecrate is the inevitable successor to a lost habit of reverence. Hence Siegfried is dressed in schoolboy uniform, Mélisande is lying on a hospital bed in sheltered accommodation, Rusalka is taking a bath in a whorehouse, and — well you know how it goes. The best one can hope for in the state-subsidised opera houses of today is that the singers will all be dressed in Nazi uniform, but otherwise allowed to get on with the plot.

New operas can escape that fate, since the composer is around to prevent it. In Rudland's Pincher Martin music, words, sets, gestures and lighting are integral parts of a unified dramatic conception, and Rudland is determined that the opera should be realised exactly as he conceived it. Without an official subsidy and all the paraphernalia that tends to come with it, a composer can take full control of the performance, and not just of the score. Equally it is when subsidies are not forthcoming that we see how unnecessary they are. Singing automatically places the actors in an imaginary world, and properly crafted melodic lines will shape the passions, the relations and the gestures according to the inner logic of the drama...'

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Submitted by peterwhittle on Thu, 2014-07-10 09:45.