Commuters and long-haul travellers at London’s St Pancras International station will be offered something different this International Women’s Day: the chance to pause, reflect and enjoy a moment of art and connection in an unlikely place.
On 8 March the station will become a stage for a series of brand-new, train-themed micro-operas created by teams of female composers and librettists.
These include Laura Reid and Oge Nwosu’s poetic song Detritus, which will be performed at the National Rail service departure boards and is told through the eyes of a cleaner who reunites people with their lost items.
And against the backdrop of the station’s iconic statue The Meeting Place, Sarah Lianne Lewis and Sophia Chapadjiev’s The Parting Place will tell the tale of an elusive voyeur, while Joanna Taylor and Kerry Priest’s I Just Wanna Be (in Center Parcs) will explore journeys beyond the every day.
Each newly commissioned piece has been built on anecdotes submitted to the Royal Opera House by members of the public, exploring themes of time, motion, meetings and farewells. The female composer and librettist duos were selected after an open call from the ROH’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme (JPYA).
The series, called Lost and Found, also includes Victoria Bernarth and Teresa Howard’s Mini Break, a comic opera about the panic of lost passports and the inevitable bickering that follows, as well as Anna Braithwaite and Priests’ The Hardest Journey, about hidden disabilities.
The event is part of the Europalia Arts Festival, which involves European railway stations including Antwerp, Brussels and Rotterdam central stations.
Some of the writing teams were mentored by the award-winning composer Laura Bowler, whose new work The Blue Woman will premiere at the ROH this summer.
Singers include the Jette Parker Young artists April Koyejo-Audiger, Thando Mjandana, Chuma Sijeqa, Blaise Malaba and Egor Zhuravskii, joined by Siân Dicker, Milly Forrest, Njabulo Madlala, Sam Marston, Zahid Siddiqui and Jamie Woollard. Accompanying them will be players from the Belgium chamber ensemble Casco Phil, whose artistic director Benjamin Haemhouts devised the project.
Angelique MacDonald, producer for the JPYA, said: “It has been a privilege to read the personal stories that were shared with us for this project, and watch them inspire seven new works in different styles and approaches. Opera is an innately human art form and it’s hugely exciting to be able to perform such relatable work with Caso Phil at St Pancras International.”
Wendy Spinks, commercial director at HS1, said: “We are so excited for St Pancras International to be the backdrop for the latest Lost and Found performances, straight off the Eurostar. There will no doubt be many interesting and entertaining stories from travellers who pass through train stations, and we can’t wait to see them brought to life through the magic and beauty of opera.”