New opera film: “Eight Songs From Isolation”

Many artists have come together for Eight Songs From Isolation, an opera written for a socially distanced world. Sophie Bevan, Sarah Connolly, Iestyn Davies, Andrei Kymach, and Toby Spence are among the featured singers, and Thomas Adès has written a new piece for the project.

Commissioned by conductor Oliver Zeffman, the songs explore themes of physical isolation and are set to text chosen by each composer. Members of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields perform with the soloists and all were recorded separately by iPhone. Each scenario highlights the artist alone; Toby Spence confronts solitude in a London flat, Sophie Bevan spends time with her baby in her bedroom, and Sarah Connolly sings in an empty church.

The film is directed by Billy Boyd, and the music selections include:

  • Thomas Adès: text from Gyökér by Miklós Radnóti, sung in Hungarian by Katalin Károlyi
  • Nico Muhly: text from New-Made Tongue by Thomas Traherne, sung in English by Iestyn Davies
  • Helen Grime: text from Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy, sung in English by Sarah Connolly
  • Ilya Demutsky: text from the words of Alexey Barishnikov as he held up a Russian bank at the height of lockdown, sung in Russian by Andrei Kymach
  • Julian Anderson: text from a letter he received during lockdown from composer Ahmed Essyad, sung in French by Sophie Bevan

“Crises have often been the catalyst for artists to develop not only new work, but also new ways of working,” says Oliver Zeffman. “The current pandemic gripping the world has made impossible the two fundamental requirements of most art forms – the interaction of artists with each other, and between artists and audiences. Rather than trying to repurpose something written in another context, I felt it artistically imperative to commission something that is very much of and for our current situation that speaks to the shared experience we are all going through.”




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