Selection of Previously Directed Works

L’incoronazione di Poppea
Composition by Claudio Monteverdi

Nerone, emperor of Rome, is wed to the beautiful and virtuous Ottavia. However, he finds himself besotted with the glorious Poppea, and vows to make her his wife. The pillars of reason, including Seneca, and popular opinion, oppose such an overthrow, but against the desire and cunning generated between the two infatuated lovers, opposition is futile. Ottone (in historical fact Poppea’s husband but in Busenello’s libretto her rejected lover) also yearns for Poppea, and seeks various ways to entrap her, while remaining immune to the charms of Drusilla, who devotedly dotes on the elegant and just-out-of-reach, if. myopic, Ottone. The air is rife with advice: Arnalta advises Poppea, Nutrice advises Ottavia, Seneca advises Nerone (unsuccessfully), and the guards advise one another. Domination rolls like dominos: Nerone dominates Ottavia, Ottavia dominates Ottone, Ottone dominates Drusilla, and, Seneca, Poppea, and Lucano all take their turns wielding Nerone. Most controlling, perhaps, is Amore, who competes with Virtù and Fortuna for supremacy as the sparks of young love fly.

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L’incoronazione di Poppea is an important work for many reasons, but not least because it was one of the first operatic works to focus on historical subject matter, and to present a history, no less, which had no satisfying moral conclusion. The bad guys win, the good guys die, and those caught in-between either succumb to the forces of power or are exiled. While accounts from Suetonius, Tacitus, and Seneca give different shades to the account (and much more recent scholarship has turned up even greater questions and inconsistencies), what we are left with, filtered through the lens of 17th century Italian librettist Giovanni Francesco Busanello, is a tale not only of insolent young love and debauched extravagance, but also of power structures…

In this Poppea we find ourselves in a stately country house in interwar England, not too far off from Cambridge. Removed from the toils of the interwar years, but similarly trapped within their own miniature social sphere, we are treated to a petri-dish of over-ripened youth and unchecked privilege, run rampant over an isolated weekend in the countryside. Here, we see the clash of will, reason, and desire; here we see chaos, viz. the separation of heaven and earth. In Poppea we, too, see a group of persons identifiable in any era, weighing choices rather than finding comprises, forcing their rights over one another over their responsibilities to each other, and standing on the backs of those vulnerable rather than lending a hand. In Poppea we thus see a relentless yet broken mechanism of fear, power, desperation, and pleasure with which we are all too familiar. (Excerpts from Director’s Note by Sasha Amaya)

Direction by Sasha Amaya, Music Direction by Luke Fitzgerald
Performed by Alice Webster, Lottie Greenhow, Anna Wagner, Chloe Allison, Hugh Cutting, Louis Wilson
Trinity Chapel, Cambridge

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Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda
Composition by Claudio Monteverdi

 In Claudio Monteverdi's Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, we are presented with the devastating story of Tancredi and Clorinda, who meet one another on the edges of the battlefield at dusk for a duel to death. The story is made tragic through the hubris that drives them to forego opportunities to reveal themselves to one another, ego denying the knowledge that would not only prevent Tancredi from unknowingly battling a woman, but the very woman with whom he has fallen in love. While the original story is pointedly historical -- crusades, Christianity, and conversion are main themes -- a broader lesson of (not) knowing the other is poignant. Indeed, Combattimentoasks important questions about who the "other" really is, drawing out the complicated and often double nature between friend and foe, neighbour and stranger, lover and enemy. Through the blindness caused by Tancredi and Clorinda's stubborness and myopia, we are witness to an unravelling of one's enemy as an unravelling of oneself, prompting us to reconsider some of the most urgent questions of our own fraught times about perspective, politics, and the place of pride. (Director's Note from Sasha Amaya)

Direction by Sasha Amaya, Music Direction by Naomi Woo
Performed by Anna Wagner, Judith Lebiez, Rosie Middleton, Art Wangcharoensab
Trinity Chapel, Cambridge; Clare Chapel, Cambridge

 

A Certain Sense of Order
Collaborative creation by Catherine Kontz, Naomi Woo, and Sasha Amaya

A Certain Sense of Order is a work for two female singers exploring the American poet Anne Sexton. Using the text of a single poem—“For John, Who Begs Me Not to Inquire Further”—the piece reflects on Sexton’s life and work, including her practice of recording and listening to tapes of her therapy sessions. While reciting excerpts of the poem, the singers perform activities reminiscent of a variety of practices from Sexton’s life: writing at a typewriter, recording speech, listening to tapes. Transitioning between media, the singers manifest and mingle roles from the home and therapy room. Rather than a literal or biographical representation of the poet or her work, the piece is better understood as a performed poetic interpretation.

Direction Sasha Amaya / Concept Naomi Woo / Composition Catherine Kontz
Performed by Rosie Middleton and Sarah Parkins
Premiere performed by Rosie Middleton and Rebecca Cuddy
Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival, London; Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, London; Pembroke College, Oxford; Judith E. Wilson Studio, Cambridge; Polyphonic Poetry Festival, Cambridge; Cambridge Festival of Ideas, Cambridge; Le Théâtre du Centaure, Luxembourg

Laughter Studies
Composition by Louis d'Heudieres

Two people describe and imitate the everyday.

Direction by Sasha Amaya
Performance by Jillian Groening and Ian Mozdzen
aceartinc. gallery, Winnipeg

 

String Quartet  #1
Composition by Luke Nickel

String Quartet #1 is a 15-minute spoken-word performance that explores ideas of transcription, redaction, sound, and silence. The work's text is an unaltered transcription of a rehearsal by the Obsession String Quartet from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. String Quartet #1 was created in residence at the Arnolfini Gallery (Bristol, UK) as part of the event Sound, Silence, and Listening: An Afternoon with Christine Sun Kim.

Direction by Sasha Amaya
Performance by Delf Gravert, Jillian Groening, Ian Mozdzen, Natasha Torres-Garner
aceartinc. gallery, Winnipeg

 Photo: Anders Kjemtrup

Photo: Anders Kjemtrup

Actéon changé en biche
Composition by Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Acteon changé en biche was Marc-Antoine Charpentier's transformation of his own tragédie en musiqueActeon for leading female voice parts. It tells the story of Acteon, who espies Diana bathing in the afternoon during a hunting expedition. In revenge, Diana turns Acteon into a stag -- or, in Charpentier's second version, a doe -- to be hunted and killed by his own hounds and friends.

Direction by Sasha Amaya, Music Direction by Naomi Woo
Clare College Chapel, Cambridge
Produced with the support of the Clare College Music Society