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Imago butterfly logo

An Opera in Two Acts by Orlando Gough
with a libretto by Stephen Plaice

Winner of the RPS Award for Learning and Participation 2013

Conductor: Nicholas Collon

Director: Susannah Waters

Designers: Es Devlin & Bronia Housman

Lighting Designer: Paul Pyant

Video Designer: Finn Ross

Movement Director: Christopher Tudor

Press notices

'Community operas have to fulfil two criteria. They need to challenge and excite their performers — mostly, as on this occasion, non-professionals — and they have to work as viable stage works in their own right. That is not as easy as it might sound, and it is to the credit of librettist Stephen Plaice, composer Orlando Gough and director Susannah Waters that their new piece, Imago, achieves both these aims ... the opera is a genuine success, and should be revived as soon as possible.'
George Hall The Guardian

The chorus
Photo: Robert Workman

'The one full chorus number that brought the house down was the hilarious 'A Capella Wedding', lovingly crafted by librettist Stephen Plaice to play to Gough's strengths and love of unaccompanied choral singing. Preparing this showstopper — which deserves an independent life — must have been a joy! "Dinga donga dinga donga dinga donga ding, this is your a capella wedding," sing the riotously dressed wedding guests. Plaice has excelled himself, condensing a complete online wedding and reception into some six fun-filled minutes.

But there are serious themes and dilemmas underlying Imago. How do we feel about vicarious love between a dying 80-year-old woman and a teenage lad? Should we, as a society, applaud or fear the impact our online lives are having on 'real life'? What are the parameters that parents should use when determining how to handle their children's involvement in the online world? How do we teach our children to avoid the perils that seemingly lurk around every mouse-click? Inappropriate relationships and predatorial grooming have become part of our online landscape and Plaice and Gough have not sought to avoid some of the questions that are inevitably raised.

The way Imago has been constructed for its large choruses of both young and old people will probably militate against its getting much exposure in the 'real' operatic world. But that would be a shame. It is too good a piece to be put to rest after a mere four performances at Glyndebourne this week.'
Antony Craig Gramophone

Photo: Robert Workman

'Ambitious, imaginative and well executed, Imago is Glyndebourne's latest community opera.

Languishing in a care home, Elizabeth is offered an Imago system, a computer-linked visor which allows her to create her virtual self (the 18-year-old Lisette) that inhabits a cyberworld. After losing her way in a bout of gambling, and after shaking off a cyber-stalker, Lisette falls in love with Gulliver (whose real-world 'host' is the elder son of Elizabeth's therapist). Gradually, Elizabeth becomes addicted to her younger avatar and, on her death, becomes one with her.

Gough's score is often minimalist in style, with edgy wind and brass colouring repeated riffs, but there are plenty of intimate, lyrical moments too, and the music takes centre stage in the set-piece of Lisette and Gulliver's doo-wop style a cappella wedding, complete with a hip pastor (radiantly sung by George Ikediashi). Finn Ross's video animations, often running the full width and height of the three-tier set are brilliantly conceived and deftly integrated into the whole.

Jean Rigby sings warmly as the initially crabby Elizabeth, and sounds completely at ease in this (for her) relatively unfamiliar idiom — though she is not always audible. Joanna Songi is the bright-eyed Lisette with a voice to match. With a fruity baritone and solid stage presence, Adam Gilbert impresses as Gulliver. Nicholas Collon conducts a 19-piece Aurora Orchestra, swelled to more than double that number by young student musicians.

There may be some small storytelling details that need sharpening in this intergenerational undertaking, but it's a very smart, collaboratively conceived production that has hit the ground running.'
Edward Bhesania, The Stage