ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

Lyric Solitude, ETO’s artist-led season, focuses on the voice of the individual in isolation, on the power of song, and of poetry – with responses to that power in dance, image and drama. By foregrounding solo performers, ETO hope to empower the artist at a time when freelance musicians are facing huge uncertainty.

ETO will pick up where it left off at Snape Maltings, the final venue the company was able to visit on its cancelled Spring 2020 tour. ETO will then visit The Assembly Halls, Tunbridge Wells; Hackney Empire, London; and Lancaster Priory, plus more venues to be announced in the upcoming weeks.

ETO are taking every measure to keep audiences, artists and staff safe whilst on tour, and working with our venue partners to do so. Audience members are encouraged to get in touch with questions about visiting a show.


The below repertoire, divided into three separate programs, is confirmed with additional repertoire to be announced in the upcoming weeks.


A Waterbird Talk (Argento)
Singer: Julien Van Mellaerts
Pianist: Ella O’Neill
Director: Susan Bickley

In the course of an illustrated lecture on the mating habits of waterfowl, an ornithologist (baritone Julien Van Mellaerts) describes his oppressive marriage. Each song-like section of the drama describes a different species, and onto each he projects his own feelings – to the evident concern of his wife in the audience, whose bird-like coughs interrupt his lyric digressions. Light-hearted and melancholy in equal measure.

Susan Bickley, widely regarded as one of the most accomplished mezzo-sopranos of her generation, makes her directorial debut, and the pianist is Ella O’Neill. Sung in English. Adapted by Dominick Argento from the On the Harmfulness of Tobacco by Anton Chekov and The Birds of America by J. J. Audobon. A contemporary opera, premiered in 1977.

More repertoire for programme 1 to be announced shortly.


Songs and Proverbs of William Blake (Britten)
Singer: Julien Van Mellaerts
Pianist: Ella O’Neill
Director: John Savournin

The visionary poet and painter William Blake inspired many composers, none more effectively than Benjamin Britten. This cycle, drawing a blazing picture of the innocence and injustice Blake saw around him, is staged by John Savournin, with Cardiff Singer of the World 2019 finalist, Julien Van Mellaerts, accompanied by Ella O’Neill.

Romances on British Poetry (Shostakovich)
Singer: Edward Hawkins
Pianist: Sergey Rybin
Director: James Conway

Dimitri Shostakovich’s brooding, passionate settings of Robert Burns, Shakespeare and Raleigh conceal the composer’s deep feelings about life, caught as he was on the anvil of 1942, hammered by clashing totalitarian armies. Edward Hawkins (bass) is the voice of the man who awaits the reasonless midnight call of his killer, in a world in which beauty is crushed as soon as it is found. Accompanied by Sergey Rybin.

The Poet’s Echo (Britten)
Singer: Jenny Stafford
Pianist: Sergey Rybin
Director: James Conway

Written in Armenia for the Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, Britten’s careful, astonishing setting of the Russian poet Pushkin are rarely performed. ‘Who hears the poet? Who is listening to my song?’ as poet and composer. Directed by James Conway, Jenny Stafford is the soloist in this haunting work, sung in the original Russian, accompanied by Sergey Rybin.

Boyhood’s End (Tippett)
Singer: Thomas Elwin
Pianist: Ian Tindale
Dancer: Paul Chantry
Choreography: Rae Piper

Thomas Elwin (tenor) is the soloist in the ecstatic Boyhood’s End (1943), to which Paul Chantry and Rae Piper make response in dance.

The Holy Sonnets of John Donne (Britten)
Singer: Richard Dowling
Pianist: Ian Tindale
Movement: Bernadette Iglich

Iglich also sets Britten’s eloquent, searing response to what he saw at the concentration camp at Belsen at the end of the war in The Holy Sonnets of John Donne. Donne’s sonnets ravish and twist, and call out for love and understanding. They are sung by tenor Richard Dowling.

A Charm of Lullabies (Britten)
Singer: Katie Stevenson
Pianist: Ian Tindale
Director: James Conway

Stevenson is also the soloist in Britten’s bizarre Charm of Lullabies, composed on poems by William Blake, Robert Burns, Robert Greene, Thomas Randolph and John Phillip – maybe not the kind of thing to sing you to sleep.

The Heart’s Assurance (Tippett)
Singers: Thomas Elwin
Pianist: Ian Tindale
Movement: Bernadette Iglich

Elwin is also the soloist in The Heart’s Assurance – the most remarkable and fearless setting of poetry by young men who fought and died in WW2. These poems, thrusting sensual desire into a landscape of death, finds response in movement by Bernadette Iglich.

Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (Shostakovich)
Singer: Katie Stevenson
Pianist: Ian Tindale
Movement: Rahel Vonmoos

Mezzo soprano Katie Stevenson is the soloist in Shostakovich’s tribute to Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, an utterly unique voice in the maelstrom of the inter war and war years. Choreographer Rahel Vonmoos has devised a response in movement.

product_title=ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude