Jonathan Lyness’ orchestration manages to convey the rich melodic tapestry of Puccini’s score with just 12 musicians. It’s an impressive feat.”
It’s been three years since I last updated this page with all my latest news, so here goes!
Firstly, I’ve literally just completed a new reduced orchestration of Verdi’s Macbeth. It will receive its first performances by Mid Wales Opera in March and I can’t wait to hear it. Macbeth is a magnificent choice for companies who want to exploit their chorus. There are choral challenges galore and the chorus of refugees at the start of Act 4 is absolutely amazing. This reduced orchestration will be available to hire once it’s been road-tested – ie, from April 2024 onwards!
A year ago saw the first performances by Mid Wales Opera of my new reduced orchestration of Hansel and Gretel. This project took many more hours/days/weeks/months than anything I had done previously and I’m delighted that it has since been taken up by so many universities, colleges and ‘young artist’ companies. Please also read my blog which outlines the opera’s genesis and the crucial role played by the composer’s sister Adelheid.
In the meantime, over the last three years, I’ve been producing a steady stream of small chamber arrangements. My version of Puccini’s wonderfully evocative Il tabarro was performed by MWO in 2021 (you can read my blog here), and my version of Montsalvatge’s El Gato con botas / Puss in Boots (now published by Peermusic Classical NY) received 13 performances in 2022 (please do contact me for more information).
Finally, in 2023, I produced a new chamber arrangement of Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict. This is an under-performed operatic gem and should be done far more than it is. It’s great for young singers, too! We did it on tour with MWO with a cast of 6 singers, singing the music in an English translation and delivering all the spoken dialogue using Shakespeare’s original text. The arrangement is for four musicians – piano, violin, clarinet and cello (here’s my blog about the opera). Please contact me if you’d like to know more!
Well, what a year it’s been. It seems here in the UK that COVID just goes on and on. It now also appears to be a race against time to get people vaccinated as variants of this horrendous disease keep appearing, not only in the UK but across the world.
Behind the scenes, and with theatres having been closed and performances cancelled, intrepid and ever-hopeful opera companies, conservatoires and theatres are busy planning productions for 2021 and beyond – productions that have the best possible chance of actually going ahead, either live or online. And with social distancing between players still very much an essential factor, reduced orchestrations of operas could well have a central role to play, even in some of the larger opera houses.
Before the pandemic arrived in the UK in full force, I had begun to turn my attention to that seminal stage work from the first half of the twentieth century – Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen. As Music Director of Mid Wales Opera, this is a piece I had already placed on our target list. Its life affirming ‘cycle of life’ story within the natural and human worlds of the composer’s own countryside would have, I believe, a real resonance for the Welsh communities that this wonderful and adventurous company serves, and a reduced orchestration is an absolute ‘must’ if MWO are to perform it. When the UK went into lockdown I suddenly found myself at home. A lot! And so 2020 became the year in which I worked tirelessly on a new arrangement of Vixen. I then played it through with the fabulous BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Cardiff (see my MWO blog) and it is now scheduled for its first performance in the UK later in 2021.
For more information on The Cunning Little Vixen or any of my other reduced orchestrations please do contact me. Most of all, continue to keep safe, and let’s all hope that the performing arts will make it out of COVID alive and well and ready to thrive in whatever world we find on the other side.
After three years I thought it was probably time for a news update! So here goes 😉
Two years ago I became Music Director of the brilliant UK touring opera company Mid Wales Opera. The company delivers two touring opera productions per season, with the main season spring tour (currently Eugene Onegin) touring to mid-sized theatres. The autumn tour, however, is something quite different. Entitled “SmallStages”, this is a new venture designed to take fully staged chamber opera to really small community venues right across Wales and its borders. The first production, of William Walton’s The Bear, took place in the autumn of 2017 and was a critical success, featuring just three singers and five musicians with no conductor and playing to 16 venues during a four-week period. This was chamber opera in its truest sense, playing to audiences of around 40 to 160. My arrangement of The Bear is for piano, harp, violin (doubling viola), bassoon and timpani/percussion. With the backing of the William Walton Trust, this arrangement will soon be published by Oxford University Press.
I am now engaged in MWO’s follow-up tour for autumn 2018; this is Ravel’s fabulous one-act opera L’heure espagnole. With a cast of 5 singers, I am arranging the opera’s large orchestral score for just four players: piano, harp, violin and bassoon, with all four players doubling up with percussion. It should be quite challenging and interactive (!). Both of these arrangements – The Bear and L’heure espagnole – can of course be conducted, but working from the piano as Music Director is a fabulous experience and allows the players and singers to work together in a quite unique way within the world of opera. L’heure espagnole will be listed on this website and available to hire from January 2019 – ie, as soon as it has been road-tested!
News: February 2015
Performances of all of my reduced opera orchestrations continue apace. I was particularly thrilled that my new Eugene Onegin was performed at the beginning of last year at The Juilliard School, New York. The New York Times reviewed one of the performances – to see the review click here
In September I finished the reduced opera orchestrations of Madama Butterfly and Opera Project gave 11 performances at The Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol in October. The reduction worked really well from the start, though I continued to make amendments and revisions during the run of performances. It was a mammoth undertaking and is a huge but rewarding play for all the instrumentalists.
I’m now working on a new Marriage of Figaro. This is slightly larger than the current reduced opera orchestration in the catalogue (seven wind instead of five) and will be performed at West Green House Opera in July.
News: December 2013
I have started work on a new reduced opera orchestration of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and today finished the first draft of the score. This version is scored for 13 players: flute (piccolo), oboe (cor anglais), clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, string quintet, harp, timpani (percussion). Madama Butterfly will receive its first performance by Opera Project in October 2014 in a run of 11 performances in Bristol, UK. It will be available for hire from November 2014.
Other recent additions to the catalogue include Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which receives its first performance outside the UK in February at the Juilliard School, New York. This is just one of an upsurge in requests for reduced opera orchestrations by universities, music colleges and conservatoires looking to perform operas with smaller orchestras, with forthcoming performances shortly to take place at The College of Idaho Music Department, The Ars Nova School of the Arts in Alabama and Manchester University here in the UK.
News: May 2013
As well as a number of performances in the UK, the last three months have seen an upsurge in the number of reduced opera orchestrations being sent abroad. These include The Marriage of Figaro for Opera Hong Kong, Cosi fan tutte for the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival and reduced orchestrations to several other USA companies and institutions including Loveland Opera Theatre in Colorado, Carolina Master Chorale, Center City Opera Theater in Pennsylvania and the Ars Nova School of the Arts in Alabama
Meanwhile, working flat out with the ‘re-vamp’ of the OperaOrchestrations.co.uk website…
News: November 2012
Eugene Onegin received its highly successful first performances at The Tobacco Factory in Bristol last month with great reviews from the national papers, the Guardian writing that ‘the singers’ every note made you marvel anew at Tchaikovsky’s score, even if you left the theatre reeling from the experience… all realised with the highest musical values’ and BBC Music Magazine writing that ‘conductor Jonathan Lyness’s reduced score works well. The reduced cast and orchestra (12 musicians), combined with the in-the-round staging create a real sense of the claustrophobia of rural life’
News: January 2012
Eugene Onegin on its way…
A new reduced orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece Eugene Onegin is currently in progress, with the first performance of the reduced opera orchestration to be given by Opera Project as part of a run of 8 performances in October. This version of Eugene Onegin will be available to hire from November 2014.
Other reduced opera orchestrations added to the OperaOrchestrations.co.uk catalogue include Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. Perfect for small companies, this arrangement has now been performed in both Italy and Bulgaria.
Performances of OperaOrchestrations.co.uk orchestral reduced opera orchestrations for 2014 include a spring/summer tour of Don Pasquale by Muziekburo Nootsprong in Holland, performances of Romeo and Juliet at the University of Iowa in April and a run of six performances of Die Entführung aus dem Serail as part of the Iford Arts Festival Season in the UK in June.