By Nicholas Boyd-Vaughan, Engagement and Communications Manager

2 May 2017

Completing our meet the composer series, we grabbed 10 minutes with Errollyn Wallen, whose new work Sabina has its premiere performance on 4, 5, 6 May as part of Dubai-Rostov-New York, our 2017 contemporary scenes production.

We are thrilled to be working with you, and to give the first ever performance of extracts from your forthcoming opera Sabina.  Could you give us a little background to Sabina Spielrein's story, and how it came to your attention?
It was Coline Covington, a psychoanalyst,  who approached me to see whether I was interested in the story of Sabina Spielrein. I immediately was! I am delighted to be working with National Opera Studio in developing this work with David Pountney.

Do you find that it’s a different process in composing from the perspective of a real person, rather than a completely imagined character? 

I feel that there is a moral responsibility to capture a truthful essence of a person who has actually lived. However, one must still give free reign to imagination and, in a way, through informed imagination one can feel very close to a historical person.

The structure of Sabina moves backwards and forwards through different periods in time, and demonstrates the many different influences on Sabina’s life, what do you hope audiences will discover about her?

The structure of Sabina is not straightforward storytelling. It is my hope that the audience can feel the vividness of her time and the power and passion of her personality.

You are working with David Pountney, our production’s director, who wrote the libretto for Sabina, how do you find the relationship between composer and librettist?

Each collaboration is very different but what is thrilling about working with David Pountney is his profound sense of theatre and deep musicality. He could hear the sound of the singers’ voices as he wrote the libretto.

Now that you’ve seen some of the rehearsals, what "top tip" would you give to young singers and répétiteurs who are preparing contemporary repertoire?

I have been greatly impressed by the talent of the young singers and répétiteurs I have been working with. I would urge them to explore the vast and richly varied world of living composers — and the recently living ones too! To be in the position of creating a role from nothing is one of the most exciting things for any performer.

What’s next for Sabina?

I am looking for a home for Sabina’s full length premiere after I have completed it. This most enjoyable time working with NOS has spurred me on and has been invaluable to the development of the work. I thank everyone for their  hard work and support.