Opera – Anya17

Anya17 is a vivid and tragic but ultimately uplifting one-act opera which depicts the horrors of contemporary human trafficking. The opera, libretto by Ben Kaye, was first performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic 10/10 Ensemble and vocal students from the Royal Northern College of Music at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in March 2012, conducted by Clark Rundell, and directed by Caroline Clegg. In October 2012 Anya17 was awarded best stage or film production dealing with human trafficking at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards in the House of Commons.

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Anya – soprano,
Mila – soprano,
Elena – soprano,
Carole/Natalia – mezzo soprano,
Uri/Gabriel – tenor
Viktor – bass

Duration: 70 minutes

(Pub. Composers Edition)

First Performance: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
Cast from the Royal Northern College of Music
RLPO 10/10 ensemble conducted by Clark Rundell
7th March 2012

Opera Parallele’s 2014 production of Anya17 (San Francisco)

Photos: Steve DiBartolomeo, Westside Studio Images

Artistic Director and Conductor: Nicole Paiement
Stage Director, Concept Designer: Brian Staufenbiel

ANYA: Anna Noggle (soprano)
CAROLE/NATALIA: Catherine Cook (mezzo-soprano)
ELENA: Laura Krumm (mezzo-soprano)
MILA: Shawnette Sulker (soprano)
URI/GABRIEL: Andres Ramirez (tenor)
VIKTOR: Victor Benedetti (baritone)

“Written for fourteen highly differentiated instrumental parts…Anya 17…is the creation of a composer of wit and imagination and draws upon a variety of unexpected influences. Though “jazzy” is a stylistic quality ascribed to many twentieth century opera scores without much justification, Gorb’s use of the stringed bass and masterful interplay between instrumentalists and singers often channelled a jazz aesthetic; the waltz in the third scene where Viktor encourages his girls to “dance sexy” achieved a ferocity and kinetic force that recalled jazz great Charles Mingus’s 1963 “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.” Between scenes, Gorb’s melodic ideas implied an easy familiarity with Leonard Bernstein’s music, applied with the expressionistic malaise of Berg.

Gorb and Kaye’s work had demonstrated, in compelling musical and dramatic fashion, how human trafficking is not just an issue, but a reality for thousands of unfortunate human beings, each with a face, a history, and a name.”

Jeffrey S McMillan – Opera News

“If ‘Anya17’ is agitprop, it is so in the best sense of the term… It also is art. Gorb’s score is listenable, modern with touches of jazz, and appropriate to the subject. Sometimes the melodic line is in the orchestra (ably directed by Nicole Paiement), with the singers’ voices riding atonally atop it. Sometimes it is the other way around. There is a beautiful Britten-like orchestral interlude following the death of one of the girls…

“Kaye’s libretto is pure poetry – even when he is writing about women as meat on display in a butcher shop (a powerful aria sung by Viktor, the villain of the piece).
Opera Parallèle has given us more than a work of art. Well done!”

Suzanne Weiss: Culture Vulture San Francisco June 20 – 22 2014

“Opera Parallèle presents a North American premiere with uncompromising impact. Gorb has a keen ear for harnessing the intensity of dissonance to Kaye’s narrative. This involves some highly imaginative combinations of instruments, along with a few well-chosen and highly arresting outbursts from the entire ensemble, led deftly by Music Director Nicole Paiement. ..Six vocalists were involved, each with a voice as intensely controlled as the instrumental parts.”

Stephen Smoliar -San Francisco Classical Music Examiner June 21

“There’s much to like in the opera…. in particular the music of Adam Gorb, which provides an off-beat light on the story. It is percussive during the set up scenes, but veers to its most sensual when things start going wrong: a lush jazzy color for a scene where Viktor and Natalia get the girls drunk, and a power ballade for the amazing Catherine Cook that reminded me of the big orchestral sound of Burt Bacharach in the ’70s as she explain how she was abused at ten by her father and walking the streets at 12. Gorb’s score underlines how despicable Viktor is when he sings about the girls being meat and him only serving people what they want and I was not going to order the burger at the Burrit Room where I needed a drink to cheer me up afterwards. At Anya’s lowest point, all the instruments play the same unison line with a few off notes here and there, and it’s a striking, poignant effect.”

Cedric Wesphal – Sfist (San Francisco)

“Composer Adam Gorb has written a fascinatingly varied score….an extensive mix of brief tonal-atonal-jazzy-lyrical phrases, jarring in its restlessness, excellent in its vocal-orchestral balance which allows the text to come through.”

Janos Gereben – San Francisco Classical Voice

German Premiere in Meiningen

“Gorb’s score is a marvel of boisterous inventiveness, albeit with a savage snap. The opening bars are like cracks of a whip, but the diversity of Gorb’s inspiration is quickly evident. Basically tonal, and with an eye for clever pastiche, it plausibly links (as he suggests) the spikiness of Eastern European idioms with the sly smoothness of jazz; annexing the West End musical for Natalia’s gaudy numbers, but approaching the intensity of Berg in the remarkable interlude for unison instruments that marks Anya’s lowest point.”
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

“…one sits with open eyes, ears and beating heart and is astounded… Something that works on the operatic stage that is usually found in film and documentary… Most of the audience didn’t know what to expect…a 70 minute highly concentrated story…a musical interpretation whose qualities sometimes remind one of Britten, sometimes Schonberg and Alban Berg, sometimes Bernstein and Jazz rhythms – a painfully disturbing world of atonal sounds into which small moments of harmony creep articulating the moments of psychological drama of the victim, only to be immediately and radically broken.

Nothing appears to be artificial or exaggerated. The (musical) language is equally brutal, poetic and raw. It took a couple of seconds longer than normal before the applause started, but then it came richly. The public were amazed by the vocal achievements of the artists, who, completely without traditional ‘beautiful’ singing, were able to express outwardly the innermost parts of their characters…..there’s nothing more to add.”

Siggi Seuss Main Post Thuringen – 3 December 2013

“Celebrated premiere of Anya17, the opera by composer Adam Gorb and librettist Ben Kaye

(Ben) Kaye and Composer Adam Gorb deal in anger and revelation, and a mission to highlight a scandalous state of affairs at society’s depraved edge. Gorb’s music certainly frees the work from the banal reality of a ‘Crime Scene.’ …The modernity of this intense and colourful musical language…possesses a remarkably sensuous attraction. It conveys tragedy, aggression, menace, violence and lyrical intimacy in its orchestral and vocal writing.

All in all a real event…The applause for the performers, director, instrumentalists and Gorb didn’t want to stop. 4 stars ****”

Wolfgang Wicht – Thuringer Algemeiner – 30 November 2013

“Her name is Anya: if you want her, order No. 17. ‘Anya17’ is also the name of Adam Gorb’s chamber opera which received its stage premiere on Thursday in Meiningen. A great evening!

No champagne, no first night hubbub, only shock and silence. Then applause – thunderous applause after seventy minutes silence…no ordinary evening of opera at Meiningen’s Kammerspiele…

Before Adam Gorb, no composer had trusted himself to bring the theme of sex slavery to the stage through the medium of music…the action is duplicated in Gorb’s music, making the kicks and beatings audible. Enriched with quotations it leads us through two opposing tonal worlds. After opening reminiscences of folklore it transforms itself with the flight to the west. The glittery falseness of sexual commerce is narrated to the sounds of Broadway and Jazz.

Yet for all that, or precisely for that reason, the clichés in the score as just as affecting as the obviously cliché-ridden stage drama. Not your usual evening of opera.”

Susann Winkel – MT-FW – 30 November 2013

Rehearsal with Opera Parallele