"...an opera not to be missed when it is revived..." Diapason (Pierre Rigaudière)

Tom Coult’s debut chamber opera Violet has received its French premiere in a production by Jacques Osinski and L'Aurore Boréale. Bianca Chillemi conducted Ensemble Maja in the 85-minute score for 13 instrumentalists. The production received three performances at l'ENS Paris-Saclay in April, further performances scheduled for June at Paris’ Théâtre de l'Aquarium as part of the Festival BRUIT on  23, 24, and 25 June. The production was previewed on Radio France – listen here.

The production is Violet’s third since its acclaimed premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival last year, directed by Jude Christian; the second was produced by Theatre Ulm and directed by Rahel Thiel in autumn 2022.

The chamber opera, with a text by Alice Birch, depicts an insular community where each day grows progressively and exponentially shorter. As this catastrophe unfolds, the titular character finds a strange freedom from her life of domestic drudgery. Juliette Allen sings Violet, with Natalie Perez as her confidante and maid Laura. Olivier Gourdy takes the role of domineering husband Felix, with Manuel Nuñez Camelino as the town’s Clock-keeper. The production is designed by Yann Chapotel, with lighting and costumes by Catherine Verheyde and Hélène Kritikos respectively.

Coult draws expressive force from economy of means…[and] favours a lyricism devoid of sentimentality and bombast…the orchestration is refined and organic…Coult's instrumental writing…evokes the world of fairy tales, Edgar Allen Poe's short stories, and the symbolism of Maeterlinck. The moments entrusted to low timbres…are reminiscent of those of Debussy's Pelléas…Unusual instruments (mechanical metronomes, kalimba, pitch pipes) come into play to good effect…This is certainly an opera not to be missed when it is revived…It is more than likely that we will hear again about Coult, whose talent is clear.

Diapason (Pierre Rigaudière) 26 April 2023

‘Day 20’ from the opera – where Violet and Laura consider setting out to sea in a small boat – featured in National Opera Studio’s Cautionary Tales, which showcased scenes from contemporary stage works directed by Olivia Fuchs, with Garry Walker conducting players from the Orchestra of Opera North.