Commissioning, nurturing and enabling a new opera to reach the stage is a phenomenally exciting and challenging process. It takes a huge amount of time – usually around 5 years, and a huge level of trust, not only in the composer and writer but also in their idea, in the way they are supported through the creative process, in the staging of a work that no one has ever heard before and the structure of the commissioning and rehearsal process. It is also a high risk investment, of time and money, and it takes courage and conviction. How we reach a point where we agree to actually commission a new opera is a combination of instinct and hard learned knowledge, but in the case of our new opera – The Devil Inside by Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh – the journey has lasted over 10 years!
It started when Michael Rafferty my co-Artistic Director and I listened to Stuart’s music, long before I attended the world premiere of Stuart MacRae’s first opera at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2005. And just two weeks ago we launched his new full-length work to huge acclaim. Along the way, I have worked on two additional operas by Stuart and Louise, one lasting 15 minutes and the second lasting 55 minutes, and each step along the way has been considered and nurtured. Now that’s what I call a process! The success of The Devil Inside has been hard-won and crafted, and I like that.
The two features of the 15-minute opera by Stuart and Louise that convinced us this was a partnership to pursue were: the way that Stuart’s music brought the drama to life; and the way that the collaboration between composer and writer worked. There was genuine creative spark at play, where the impish, dark humour of Louise seemed to ignite Stuart’s dramatic and musical instincts. This is an all-to-rare thing, and needs to be cherished, supported and developed. The next step was Ghost Patrol for Music Theatre Wales and Scottish Opera, which was a powerful dramatic work that again made sense as an opera, a real music-drama, but which also spoke to a contemporary audience about something that was close to our everyday lives. Again, this had to be pursued, and so – after much more discussion, exploration and consideration – we arrived at The Devil Inside.
Ben McAteer and Nicholas Sharratt
Seeing The Devil Inside receive such overwhelming praise from the media and audiences is incredibly rewarding, but knowing deep down that this is a real opera created by artists of integrity and amazing skill, that does everything opera should, is a great story well told in words, music, performance and production and has the capacity to captivate and touch us is simply wonderful.
I am incredibly proud of the fact that Music Theatre Wales and our partners at Scottish Opera have been able to take this journey with Stuart and Louise and see it through to fulfilment. To create the best work you need time and investment as well as inspiration and vision, and coming from today’s march through Cardiff to protest against the cultural cuts currently under consideration at Cardiff City Council I want to share this story as an example of the trust and investment that should be given to artists and the organisations that enable them to make life worth living, not just surviving.
Nicholas Sharratt and Steven Page
On a personal footnote, I am also heartened and thrilled that both myself and Michael Rafferty were awarded MBEs in the New Year’s Honours for our work with Music Theatre Wales. Not only because it is about a level of personal commitment and achievement, but because it recognises the value to all of us of creativity and artistic risk. I hope that recognition becomes infectious.
Michael McCarthy MBE. Joint Artistic Director, Music Theatre Wales