GSMD and ROH announce Oliver Leith as new Doctoral Composer-in-Residence 2019-2022

Guildhall School of Music & Drama in association with The Royal Opera
today announces Oliver Leith as the fourth Doctoral
Composer-in-Residence, starting in September 2019.

Launched in 2013, the collaboration between Guildhall School and The Royal
Opera is one of the first examples of an opera company and conservatoire
joining forces to offer a Composer-in-Residence studentship which leads to
a doctoral degree. Fully funded by Guildhall School and supported by The
Royal Opera, the studentship offers one composer every two years the
opportunity to be Doctoral Composer-in-Residence over a three-year period.
During this time, the composer researches and writes a major work, which is
staged by The Royal Opera at the end of the residency.

Leith’s forthcoming opera will explore how to create a theatrical world in
opera, through the shifts between diegetic and non-diegetic sounds (sounds
audible to actors versus sounds meant only for the audience) a convention
regularly used in film to support creation of mood and atmosphere. He will
take inspiration from moments in cinema that have made a particularly
strong impression on him. He is especially interested in exploring ways of
composing that start from a visual, rather than textual, stimulus.

Oliver Leith said of his appointment: ‘I am excited to be a fly on the wall
at The Royal Opera and cannot wait to start working on something with them
and my alma mater, Guildhall School, as I experiment and question what
opera means to me. This is a unique collaboration between institutions of
which I am thrilled to be a part.’

Having studied composition at undergraduate (2009-2013) and masters
(2014-15) level at Guildhall School, supported by The Countess of Munster
Trust and Guildhall School Trust, Leith has gone on to win a British
Composer Award in the small chamber category (2016) and the Royal
Philharmonic Composition prize (2014). He has been commissioned by groups
such as London Sinfonietta, Festival Aix-en-Provence, London Symphony
Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Festival, Heidelberg Festival, Musicon, Homo
Novus/Valmiera theatre and St John’s Smith Square.

He has also collaborated with Apartment House, Ives Ensemble, EXAUDI, Plus
Minus, Philharmonia Orchestra, An Assembly, Trio Catch, GBSR Duo, LorÈ
Lixenberg, 12 Ensemble, Explore Ensemble, Matthew Herbert and John Harle.
His music has been performed in many key venues across the world including:
the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican, Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, Snape
Maltings, Liszt Academy (Budapest), Maison du Canada (Paris) and Leeds
Lieder. His music has also been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and NTS Radio.

Professor Julian Philips, Head of Composition, Guildhall School said:
‘Guildhall School’s Composition Department is delighted at the continued
flourishing of this unique doctoral Composer-in-Residence scheme. Composer
Oliver Leith is one of the most distinctively expressive voices on the new
music scene today and we look forward to supporting the development of his
new over the coming three years.’

Kate Wyatt Creative Producer, The Royal Opera, said: ‘We are thrilled to be
working with Oliver Leith, our fourth Doctoral Composer-in-Residence, who
is developing such a distinctive body of work. Developing artists and new
work is vitally important for us, and our brilliant partnership with the
Guildhall School of Music & Drama is key to this, enabling us to make
the most of the learning opportunities and to provide a context and
framework to nurture and produce opera with a new generation of artists.
The Linbury Theatre is a place for brilliant storytelling, world class
music making and above all, great theatre. Oliver’s music, often starting
with the visual, grounded in human themes and exploring the poetry in the
everyday and his collaborative approach to creation is a natural starting
point for us to explore new ways of making opera together. We look forward
to working with him, as he develops his processes over the course of the
next three years.’

Matt Rogers is the current Doctoral Composer-in-Residence and this year
enters his final year in the role, having joined the programme in September
2017. His opera She Described it to Death, featuring a libretto by
Sally O’Reilly, takes its inspiration from a future hindered by
over-population, to which a sci-fi angle brings an intriguing solution, and
new problems of its own. It receives its world premiere performances at the
Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House from Friday 17 July – Tuesday 21 July

The second recipient, Na’ama Zisser, premiered her first opera Mamzer Bastard in June 2018 at Hackney Empire. The story is set
within the Orthodox Jewish community and Zisser merged her own musical
idiom with the music of Orthodox Hasidic Judaism: it was one of the very
first operas to feature and reference cantorial music & singing. It
featured the lead cantor of Hampton Synagogue, New York Netanel Hershtik in
the role of David, a cantor in the plotline.

Philip Venables was the inaugural Doctoral Composer-in-Residence and his
opera 4.48 Psychosis, which premiered in May 2016, has won
numerous awards including the UK Theatre Award for Achievement in Opera
(2016), the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Large-Scale Composition
(2017) and the British Composer Award for Stage Work (2017). It was also
nominated for the Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production (2017) and
the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Best Opera (2017). 4.48 Psychosis is currently being performed at Muscia Festival

The studentship aims to offer an enriching model of opera development that
allows a composer substantial creative research experience in the
development of operatic practice, within the setting of a unique
collaboration between an opera company and conservatoire. It allows for
both critical reflection and creative research, in both professional and
academic contexts. Leith will be supervised, from Guildhall School, by
Professor of Composition Dr Richard Baker, together with Head of
Composition, Professor Julian Philips as well as Kate Wyatt, Creative
Producer at The Royal Opera.

In addition to the Doctoral Composer-in-Residence, Guildhall School offers

MA in Opera Making and Writing

in association with the Royal Opera House. Launched in 2014, this
full-time, one-year Masters programme allows composers and writers to focus
on how new opera is created, developed and performed.