The voice of one of the country’s best known atheists can be heard in an opera based on a controversial unfinished novel by Mark Twain
The opera, written by University of Manchester lecturer in composition Dr Kevin Malone, is based on the celebrated American author’s final novel, written between 1897 and 1908 and never completed.
Dr Malone wrote the narrative, libretto and music for ‘Mysterious 44’, which lasts 90 minutes and will be premiered tonight at the RNCM as part of the New Music North West Festival.
Directed by Caroline Clegg, a cast of 15 opera singers tell this captivating story by time travelling with two invisible characters, video animation and surround-sound music.
Dr Malone met with Richard Dawkins to record his three dramatic recitations from Twain’s manuscripts which provide a shocking finale.
Malone’s electronic score in surround sound completely immerses the audience in the drama which swings from the epic to the intimate, from interior thoughts to exterior comedy and tragedy.
Inspired by the writings of Darwin, Twain’s story is set in 1490, a few decades after the invention of Gutenberg’s press and the start of the Renaissance.
Three boys are approached by a mysterious stranger who calls himself “44” after a wrongly-accused woman is stoned to death.
Like the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the stranger sparks self-realisation, and one boy steps forward to question superstition and religion.
Dr Malone says: “This is a personal yet universal story where each person who sees it will ask themselves about their belief systems, and how they view other people’s beliefs. This is especially important in this era with escalating conflicts about different faith, non-believers, and science.”
Mon: 25 Jan 7pm (£7/£13/£15)
World Premier, RNCM as part of the NEW MUSIC NORTH WEST FESTIVAL.
Fri: 29 Jan 7:30pm (£7/£12)
Z-Arts Theatre, Hulme www.z-arts.org/events/mysterious-44-the-new-mark-twain-electronic-opera/)
Mon 1 Feb, 5:15pm (£10)
Manchester Central Library.
This performance is preceded by a talk by the composer at 4:45pm