Opera Scotland

New Year

Tours by decade

Tours by location

Michael Tippett (born London, 2 January 1905; died London, 8 January 1998)

The composer.


First performance: Houston (Cullen Theater, Wortham Center), 27 October 1989.
First UK performance: Glyndebourne (Festival Theatre), 1 July 1990.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 26 October 1990.
Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

The last of Sir Michael Tippett’s five operas, New Year was commissioned jointly by Houston Grand Opera, Glyndebourne and the BBC, and completed when the composer was 83. After its first UK performances, Glyndebourne took it on tour. The opera contains elements from a number of concerns which influenced Tippett at various stages throughout his career, including modern elements of television, stage musicals, popular culture and rock music. As with his first opera, The Midsummer Marriage, there is a theme of mysticism and an element of science fiction.

The action is divided between two worlds: 'Somewhere and Today' (an urban city recognisably in our modern world) and 'Nowhere and Tomorrow' (a time and place somewhere in the future, and in another world).  'Nowhere', a literal translation of 'Utopia', deaws on the utopian socialism of H G Wells, William Morris (author of News from Nowhere) and Samuel Butler's Erewhon.  The action is framed and introduced by a Master of Ceremonies or 'Presenter'.

Presenter (singer)
From Somewhere and Today
Jo Ann, a trainee child psychologist (soprano)
Donny, her foster-brother (baritone)
Nan, their foster-mother (mezzo-soprano)
From Nowhere and Tomorrow
Merlin, the computer wizard (bass)
Pelegrin, the space pilot (tenor)
Regan, their boss (soprano)

Plot Summary
Jo Ann is fearful of the outside world of Terror Town, and is mocked by her delinquent foster-brother. Merlin shows Pelegrin the new computer installed in the spaceship he has built. The computer shows pictures of the past, including Jo Ann, but Regan is only interested in the future and orders Pelegrin to start his voyage to the future at New Year. He meets Jo Ann but is forced to fly off before making contact. New Year is greeted by the people with ritualistic dances and the expulsion of the old year by the beating up of a scapegoat, on this occasion Donny.

As New Year strikes, the spaceship lands and Pelegrin searches for Jo Ann. Regan demands to know where Pelegrin has brought them, and when she realises they are in the past she is furious.at the deception practised on her. The people are repelled from attacking the ship and it flies off. The crowd, roused to fury, now attack Donny with real aggression, and Jo Ann rescues him. Donny gives Jo Ann a video recounting his dreams. Pelegrin takes Jo Ann away and gives her a choice of drinks, from the blissful fountain of forgetting or the bitter lake of remembering. She chooses the latter. They find they love one another and Pelegrin now takes Jo Ann to the Paradise Garden. She dances a ritual of inner peace, while Pelegrin gives her a rose and leaves Jo Ann for ever.

Merlin and Regan curse Pelegrin, and the rose is returned to him. Jo Ann is surprised by its loss, but is now ready to face the outside world.

The Cast

 Jo Ann's foster-brother
Jo Ann
 a trainee children's doctor
 the computer wizard
 their foster-mother
 the space pilot
 their boss

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