The enterprising Music Theatre Wales company often boldly goes where few, if any, other small-scale opera companies venture. They take a big leap into the paranormal by presenting a powerful new opera, with music by John Hardy and a libretto by Heledd Wyn, based on the most famous UFO crash of all, in the New Mexico desert in 1947, in which debris was found and alien autopsies took place, only for a cover-up operation to shroud the incident in mystery.
All very X Files, maybe, but operatic? "Absolutely," says artistic director Michael McCarthy. "This is a fascinating story with strong human and emotional undercurrents - it makes for an intriguing new music- theatre piece. The cast of four includes a challenging role for a young girl, who is a sort of clairvoyant bridging this world and another."
The opera, he says, veers between scenes of personal testimony and official repression. "The staging is relatively simple, with a metallic double door, steel fencing and a gravel floor," he says. No, there are no cheap Dr Who-type aliens on show, but a central scene does revolve around the autopsies. "The essence lies in the mystery and how people there at the time were affected by the phenomenon, whatever it was. The opera deliberately doesn't try to come up with any answers; rather, it makes thought-provoking connections and suggestions."
Scored for a string quartet with the addition of electronics and running for 90 minutes without interval, Hardy's new chamber opera is also, according to McCarthy, "aptly American-sounding and not too far removed from the minimalist idiom of, say, Philip Glass.
"John Hardy has spent much of his career as a film and television composer, so what we have in The Roswell Incident is a very cinematic piece in which image, music and message blend together." We've had the film, and now the opera. Keep an eye out for the T-shirt.
EYE ON THE NEW
The Cambridge New Music Players, a virtuoso young ensemble, return to London with an interesting programme of contemporary music. Works include Judith Weir's Musicians Wrestle Everywhere, the first performance of Caprichos by John Woolrich and a second airing of artistic director Edward Dudley Hughes' 1996 Brighton Festival commission, Movements in Red.
Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, London SE1 (0171-960 4242) on 7 May at 7.30pmReuse content