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Sonya's Story

7th August 2010

Dear All

Please see below some information about Sonya's Story which is on at the
Riverside Studios this weekend.


Sonya's Story Saturday 7 August 8.15 pm, Sunday 8 August 5.15 Riverside
Studios, Crisp Rd, Hammersmith W69RL 020 8237 1111 Hammersmith Tube 7

Opera Sonya's Story (История
Сони) is an operatic setting of text from Anton
Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya (Дядя
Ваня) presenting the debut collaboration of Neal
Thornton as Composer and Musical Director, Sally Burgess as Director and
Charles Phu as Designer, with art assistance by Philippe Devaud.

It is the world�s first opera adapted from Chekhov�s Uncle Vanya.

Sonya responds to events one tragic summer as the stresses of her life in
pre-Revolution Russia come to a head. "Sonya's Story" is a one act opera
based on Chekhov's play "Uncle Vanya". This is a melodic score for 2
singers and chamber orchestra. A musical psycho-drama focussing on Sonya's
character which is revealed very effectively in a musical setting. Sonya�s
Story is a TLM production.

Sonya�s story is shown through the disturbance to her humdrum life created
by her father and stepmother�s stay for the summer at the estate. How her
infatuation with/ love for Doctor Astrov is stirred up by his frequent
visits, brought on by his interest in her beautiful young stepmother; her
father�s confrontation and shooting incident with Vanya, and the
subsequent return to a resigned normality but with her awareness that
acceptance can bring peace.

Future plans include extending Sonya's Story to a full evening's operatic
entertainment by adding a first act portraying Yelena's story (Uncle Vanya
seen from Yelena's perspective) in text and music that complements that of
Sonya's Story. The whole creating a time lapsed build up of the characters
and events in Uncle Vanya.

Its world premiere performances are for T�te � T�te: The Opera Festival
2010 at the Riverside Studios, London, United Kingdom on Saturday August 7
and Sunday August 8.

Composer and Musical Director: Neal Thornton
Director: Sally Burgess

Designer: Charles Phu


Caryl Hughes (Sonya)

Cozmin Sime (Uncle Vanya / Dr. Astrov)

Actress/dancer Ilana Gorban (Yelena)

Artist: Philippe Devaud

Sally Burgess: These performances present another operatic world premiere
for director, Sally Burgess. She directed the much acclaimed premiere of
Ula here last August which represented her directorial debut. More
recently her production of Cosi fan Tutte for English Chamber Opera earned
equal acclaim " …. Sally Burgess's brilliant production. The question
must be, now that this distinguished international singer has

turned her attention to directing, what next? I hope she has even greater
forces to command, and I'll certainly be there. " Alison Truefitt. Musical

Charles Phu: These performances represent Charles Phu's UK operatic debut.
Previously designing operas in the USA and Asia, he is an architect and
designer currently practicing in London, responsible for a number of
landmark building designs around the world including the controversial
400-meter Okhta Centre, Okhta Concert Hall, Modern Art Museum and Opera
House in St Petersburg, Russia; the Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Florida,
USA; and Beijing�s China World Trade Center Tower III.

Neal Thornton: These performances represent Neal Thornton's operatic
debut. As arranger and composer he has produced three albums with Sally
Burgess and three stage shows including Something Wonderful ( a Richard
Rodgers centenary tribute with orchestra and chorus ) for Opera North and
English National Opera , and Harold Arlen � who? for the Barbican, and
with Willard White, A tribute to Paul Robeson, a stage show also broadcast
by the BBC and released on CD.

World Premiere:

Saturday 7th August 20.15, 2010

Sunday 8th August 17.15, 2010

Riverside Studios

London, United Kingdom

Online bookings: www.tete-a-tete.org.uk/OpFest2010/

Telephone bookings:

+44 20 8237 1111

T�te � T�te: The Opera Festival 2010 official website:

Performance website link:

Facebook group: Sonya's Story


Jenny Rose

AOR Management Inc

6910 Roosevelt Way N.E. PMB 221


WA 98115

Tel: +1 206 729 6160

Fax: +1 206 985 8499

Cell: +1 206 915 5145

e-mail: [removed]
Below are two press preview articles in The Independent and for Musical
Pointers which give you further insight into this production. Also please
visit: http://sonyasstoryopera.webs.com

Sally's story: from singing actress to Chekhovian opera director
By Sally Burgess
Friday, 30 July 2010

The transition from opera singer to director has been an emotional
rollercoaster � often thrilling and frightening at the same time. A
reputation as a singing actress and natural stage animal has stood me in
good stead, but nothing can really prepare you to be a director of opera
better than actually doing it.

Having been a committed supporter of Bill Bankes-Jones's T�te � T�te Opera
for years, he was the first person I went to see for advice. "Well," he
said, "I think you should come and direct something for our Opera
Festival." And so I did last summer � baptism by fire ! More learning
happened with my production of Cosi for English Chamber Opera last autumn,
and now I have what feels like the perfect team for a new opera, Sonya's
Story with Neal Thornton (composer and MD) and Charles Phu (designer). We
are all aiming for the same thing. I had the same feeling during
rehearsals for that famous Bluebeard's Castle for ENO in the 1990's,
directed by David Alden, conducted by Mark Elder � a rare and wonderful
thing when all involved pull together.

Sonya's Story began life as Sonya's Song, written for me by Neal 13 years
ago � we performed it often and audiences loved it and were curious. It is
now half an opera � the other half, Yelena's Story, is cooking. The
process feels good. Every risk we've taken has miraculously/magically
worked out. We've found � at very short notice � terrific singers and a
dancer, top players for our band conducted by Lionel Friend, and support
from generous sponsors, friends and colleagues. And, best of all, an opera
with beautiful music. Manifesting an opera � who ever heard of that! � but
it seems to be my reality.

Sonya's Story is an operatic setting of text from Chekhov's
heartbreakingly poignant and often witty play Uncle Vanya. It's a new
interpretation seen from Sonya's point of view covering what happens
during one fateful summer. Sonya's humdrum life is turned upside down when
she become infatuated with Doctor Astrov, who now visits their house daily
since he has fallen for Sonya's attractive stepmother. Everyone's lives
change as a result of this.

'Sonya's Story',T�te � T�te : the Opera Festival, Riverside Studios,
London W6 (020-8237 1111; Sonyasstoryopera.webs.com;
Riversidestudios.co.uk) 7 & 8August

Link to full article:

Neal Thornton Sonya's Story

Musical Pointers July 2010
Exciting news this week that international opera star Sally Burgess is
building on her last year's highly successful venture into opera direction
with another premiere for the Tete-�-Tete Opera Festival for which she is
not only director, but also closely involved in the making of the piece
itself � Sonya's Story is written by Sally's pianist/composer husband,
Neal Thornton. It's a thought-provoking version of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya
told from the point of view of Sonya, the youngest character in that tale
of dashed hopes, whose life seems most blighted by events.

I went to interview Sally and Neal at their London home to hear more. The
idea was born some years ago when Neal, at a West End performance of the
play, 'just heard music in my head' as Sonya was making the play's final
speech, that passionate, hopeless promise to Vanya that '…we shall know
a life that's bright and beautiful….we shall have rest….'

Neal at once wrote an aria based on the speech which Sally sang at many of
the concerts they've done together. But the play continued to haunt him
and he re-read it and soon made a treatment for an opera based on Sonya.
He wrote no more music, however, until the opportunity came from
Tete-�-Tete this summer, when he composed the present 45-minute version in
just a few weeks. It's for two voices and a 6-piece wind and string
instrumental ensemble including Neal on the piano, and conducted by the
well-known international opera maestro, Lionel Friend, with whom Sally has
worked for years at ENO and beyond. (The final version of the opera will
have a first section of similar length, telling the story from Yelena's
point of view, she being the rich, glamorous, educated and urban
counterpart to poor Sonya.)

In the present version there are two singers and a dancer (Caryl Hughes
as Sonya, Cozmin Sime as Astrov and Vanya, and Ilana Gorban as Yelena).
How to represent the nine characters of the complete play? 'Often
limitations present interesting solutions,' says Sally. And certainly the
plans sound interesting. The piece is through composed. Sonya's sung text
follows Chekhov faithfully, with a few brief spoken passages, written by
Neal, 'very simply � not trying to be poetic' � to fill narrative gaps.
The overbearing father, Serebriakov, and his wife, will appear in a big
portrait that dominates the stage throughout. Behind him, a curving
screen of suspended banners will represent the various boundaries felt or
imagined by the characters. The baritone, playing the two men most
important to Sonya, will look and sound quite different in each part, not
least because each persona is as seen through Sonya's eyes � first the
doctor, Astrov, elusive object of her love, then Vanya her incendiary
uncle. Each has his own musical leitmotif. Similarly, the langourous
Yelena, idling on a swing, will be a (silent) vision of all that the
endlessly overworked Sonya feels she herself lacks.

Designer of the production is the distinguished international architect
and opera buff Charles Phu. That both he and Neal are making their
operatic debuts seems if anything to have boosted the level of innovative
thought. 'We're a very good team,' says Sally. 'Charles is highly
imaginative, Neal and I know each other pretty well � it's all very

Neal, whose work so far has been mostly in jazz and lighter music, makes
no claims for Sonya as high art. But if melody is the essence of opera,
melodies in multitudes Sonya has. And he has made a work that offers
Sally limitless scope for her great imaginative skills as a director � and
of course supremely gifted singer/actress � mistress of the intensely felt
moment, the physical expression of emotion, the portrayal of the inner
life. From my brief encounter with her detailed concept of the piece, I
think we may be in for something special. Alison Truefitt

Sonya's Story Saturday 7 August 8.15 pm, Sunday 8 August 5.15 Riverside
Studios, Crisp Rd, Hammersmith W69RL 020 8237 1111 Hammersmith Tube 7

Link to full article:

AOR Management Inc
6910 Roosevelt Way N.E. PMB 221
WA 98115

Tel: +1 206 729 6160
Fax: +1 206 985 8499
Cell: +1 206 915 5145
e-mail: [removed]

Exclusively representing Charles Robert Austin bass baritone; Sally
Burgess mezzo/stage director; Rebecca Cooper soprano; Alasdair Elliott
tenor; Carolyn Kuan conductor; Tasmin Little* violin; Eldar Nebolsin ***
piano; Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt violoncello ****; Gerard Schwarz
conductor; Clare Shearer mezzo; Tianwa Yang** violin; Siggal Zeira mezzo;
Frans Lanting�s LIFE: A Journey Through Time ( a multi media orchestral
project )

* Worldwide except for the UK.
** Worldwide except for Germany and Australasia.
*** Worldwide except for Spain, Portugal, Brussels, Netherlands and
**** Worldwide except for Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and South

AOR Management Inc Associated Artists:
Marie Birve, soprano; Elizabeth Schultz, soprano; and Julie Unwin,

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