Opera: The Girl and the donkey. An operatic fable

Aria: Prologue



Synopsis of the Imagined Opera

The day before her sixteenth birthday, farm-girl Alba sings to a Donkey about her beloved pets, all of whom died in unfortunate ways. The Donkey persuades her to run away into the forest, where they meet an old lady, Jeronima, who reveals that Alba’s mother is the sister of Carmen, the ruling Witch-Queen. When Carmen was snubbed at Alba’s first birthday party, she kidnapped Alba’s brother, cursed Alba with a magic potion, and banished her sister and her husband from the palace. But, Jeronima explains, when Alba turns sixteen, the curse will rebound in a mysterious way.

The next day, Alba learns that her parents have been imprisoned by Carmen, and as she, Jeronima and the Donkey break into the palace, she realises she has the power to transform herself and others into the lost animals of her childhood. Thus disguised, the three intruders sneak into Carmen’s banquet, but are captured. When the queen threatens to eat the intruders alive, Alba persuades her aunt to raise a toast for her birthday, but the wine is laced with the curse-potion, and the spell is undone. The Donkey transforms into Alba’s lost brother, Jeronima is revealed as Alba’s grandmother, and as Alba joins her reunited family for her birthday feast, she turns her vengeful aunt into a donkey as punishment.



Alexandra Lowe - Soprano

Joining the Royal Opera’s prestigious Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the start of the 20/21 season is the icing on the cake of an already important year for Spanish-born British soprano Alexandra Lowe in which she took Second Prize at the Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Third Prize at the Concorso Lirico Internazionale di Portofino, both awarded by an esteemed international jury. Alexandra was widely praised for her  “abundant warmth and generosity” (The Telegraph) in her final round performance at Glyndebourne when she was broadcast globally by Sky Arts, and has since been featured in BBC Music Magazine’s  ‘Rising Stars’ focus.
Lowe started her studies at the Royal Northern College of Music before joining the Opera Course at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and subsequently London’s National Opera Studio. During her studies, she performed in a varied repertoire such as Handel Theodora, Britten A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Offenbach La Vie Parisienne, Weill Street Scene, Hindemith The Long Christmas Dinner, and Menotti The Consul alongside scenes as Poppea (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Ginevra (Ariodante), Contessa Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Tatyana (Eugene Onegin), Rosalinde (Die Fledermaus), Countess (Capriccio), Leïla (Les pecheurs de perles), Massenet’s Manon, and Charpentier’s Louise.
Professionally, Alexandra Lowe has already appeared as Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) at Nevill Holt Opera, Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) at Clonter Opera, Barena (Jenůfa) at Grange Park Opera, and the three roles of Bride, Wife and Mother in Judith Weir’s The Vanishing Bridegroom for British Youth Opera, drawing universal acclaim from national press.


Mairi Grewar - Repetiteur

Mairi Grewar is a Scottish pianist based in Germany. She is currently répétiteur and ballet répétiteur for the Landestheater Coburg in Bavaria. She was a National Opera Studio Young Artist répétiteur in 2019/2020. Mairi has performed at the Millenium Centre for the Welsh National Opera, in recital at the English National Opera and at Opera North during her time at the studio. Mairi was a fellow of the Guildhall School and was the senior coach on their productions of Handel’s Aminta e Fillide, Blow’s Venus and Adonis, Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte and Britten’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. She was the chorus répéiteur for the Opera Holland Park 2019 season including Pucinni’s Manon Lescaut, Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, Cilea’s L’arlesiana and Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.

Mairi is also a pianist for the Opera Holland Park Inspire outreach programme, bringing opera to community centres and charities. In the Spring of 2018 Mairi attended the Solti Accademia Repetiteur Course in Venice, Italy and was a scholar of the Franz Schubert Institut in Baden, Austria in July 2017. She was assistant conductor for Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the Berlin Opernfest in August 2018. Mairi has performed at the Barbican as part of the LSO Guildhall Artists scheme, the Wigmore Hall and LSO St Lukes. Mairi holds a Guildhall Artist Masters degree in piano accompaniment with distinction. She was associate accompanist for the University of St Andrews and was assistant Musical Director for their production of Madeleine Dring’s A Cupboard Love and Vaughn Williams’ Riders to the Sea. She is grateful for the support of the Dewar Arts Awards.


Creative Team 

Mira Calix - Composer

Mira Calix is an award-winning artist and composer based in the United Kingdom. Music and sound, which she considers a sculptural material, are at the centre of her practice. Her work explores the manipulation of the material into visible, physical forms through multi-disciplinary installations, sculpture, video and performance works. Calix’s practice is deliberately disjunctive, allowing research, site, and subject to influence a fluid choice of materials and mediums.

Calix has been commissioned by, and exhibited and performed works in many leading cultural institutions, festivals and ensembles internationally. Most recently Bozar in Brussels, Lower Green in Norwich, the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, The Tower of London, Somerset House, Sound UK, Hayward Gallery, Serpentine Galleries, the 1st Coventry Biennial, The Royal Shakespeare Company, UK in China 2015 cultural exchange program, Carriageworks, MONA, Performa, the Barbican, Art Basel, Lincoln Center, Manchester International festival and the London Olympics among others. 


Sophie Rashbrook - Librettist

Sophie Rashbrook is a writer, opera dramaturg and librettist based in London. Previously Dramaturg at Welsh National Opera, she holds an MA in Operamaking from the Guildhall School, an MPhil and BA (Hons) in Russian Studies from Cambridge University, and spent a year playing the cello at the St Petersburg Conservatoire.

Her opera libretto, Grace (music by Maeve McCarthy) was performed at the Milton Court Studio Theatre, and excerpts from her play about the life of set designer, Ralph Koltai, have been performed at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House and The Other Room Theatre, Cardiff. She has written scripts for Garsington Opera, WNO, ROH Opera Dots, and recently wrote a new song text, ‘Nature is Returning’ for Joshua Borin, which was performed live from the tower of St Pancras, as part of the Isolation Songbook - a creative response to lockdown.

She regularly works for Longborough Opera as surtitler, programme editor and podcast host, and is currently mentoring 6 composers on the Ty Cerdd ‘Opera Pathway’ project, as well as developing new musical collaborations with Daniel Elms and Carlijn Metselaar.