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Onkraj vrta/Beyond the garden

Opera ONKRAJ VRTA bo premierno izvedena v Sloveniji junija 2020 v Stari mestni elektrarni!

19. 8. 2019 ob 16.30, London, cerkev St John’s Waterloo - Mendelssohn Room

Slovenian Chamber Music Theatre presents workshop scenes from


Beyond the Garden

Music by Stephen McNeff

Libretto by Aoife Mannix


Ottilia – Susan Bickley

Klara – Katja Konvalinka


Music Director & Piano – Simon Dvoršak

Clarinet – John Slack

Violin – Sophie Mather

Thanks to Adam Torrance for advice and presentation assistance.


Note: This is a workshop presentation of selected scenes from an hour-long opera that will be premiered in 2020 in Ljubljana before coming to the UK.  It will feature the singers you hear today, plus a small instrumental ensemble.  Our aim now is to test the concept and try out some of the material with real performers before further development and completing the opera.  Your suggestions and comments are most welcome and thank you for joining us in this process.



[At the workshop presentation we will perform the scenes below shown in regular type.  The scenes in italic are to give the rest of the proposed story.]


Prologue.  New York 1964

Klara – a woman of about 48 – by herself.  She remembers Venice a long time ago.


Scene 1. New York Christmas 1964

Ottilia is being difficult.  She is preparing to receive guests and irritated by Klara’s lack of understanding or cooperation.  On the other hand, they seem to need each another.


Scene 2. A Few Years Earlier

Ottilia remembers her father and childhood in Vienna.  Klara is in attendance to help, but has taken on a strange pallor.


Scene 3.  New York Christmas 1946

Ottilia celebrates the new found freedoms since the War ended.  She gives Klara an unwelcome present of a rag doll that brings back painful memories.  Klara taunts Ottilia about the men in her past life.  They seem to be trying to destroy each other.


Scene 4. Escape to California 1940

Ottilia: “A miracle we made it.”

Klara: “Aren’t you ashamed about the people you left behind?”


Scene 5 The French Riviera 1938

Ottilia – though warned off it – has a liking for alcohol.  It helps her remember what it is to be young and free.  Things get out of control as both Klara and Ottilia indulge, ending up with Klara going too far and touching a nerve.

Scene 6 (fragment) Vienna 1938

It begins to grow dark.  Ottilia imagines that her father has returned.  Klara and Ottilia’s relationship becomes more intense even as it begins to fade.  “Don’t go”, says Ottilia.


Scene 7 (fragment): Venice, Easter 1935

Klara is now a ghostly figure recalling fragments of earlier music.  Ottilia remembers the magnolias and realises that Klara cannot come back.  She is now - and in fact has always been – by herself.


Stephen McNeff was born in Ireland and grew up in South Wales.  He has worked extensively in music for the theatre, composing operas and concert works commissioned by organisations such as the Royal Opera House, the BBC and major orchestras.  He was composer in residence with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras and his work – which includes an exceptionally wide range of genres, including opera, chamber and concert works and music for wind orchestras – is performed internationally and at leading festivals throughout the UK.  Beyond the Garden is his third major collaboration with poet, Aoife Mannix.  https://www.stephenmcneff.co.uk  


Aoife Mannix Aoife Mannix was born in Sweden of Irish parents. She grew up in Dublin, Ottawa and New York before moving to the UK.  She is the author of four collections of poetry; The Trick of Foreign Words (2002), The Elephant in the Corner (2005), Growing Up An Alien (2007) and Turn The Clocks Upside Down (2008) – all with Tall Lighthouse. Her show Growing Up An Alien, produced by Apples and Snakes and supported by Arts Council England, premiered at the Southbank Centre’s 2007 London Literature festival. Aoife has performed throughout the UK and internationally.


Susan Bickley is one of the most accomplished mezzo-sopranos of her generation, with a wide repertory encompassing the Baroque, the great 19th and 20th century dramatic roles as well as contemporary repertoire.  She regularly appears on the main opera stages across the world and is an established exponent of new music.  She is a holder of the singer award at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, the highest recognition for live classical music in the UK.  https://www.intermusica.co.uk/artist/susan-bickley


SLOVENIAN CHAMBER MUSIC THEATRE (SLOVENSKO KOMORNO GLASBENO GLEDALIŠČE – SKGG) was founded in 1996. In 2008 it was recognised with the status of NGO in the public interest.  Its members are well known Slovenian musicians, theatre and cultural workers. The aims of SKGG are to perform chamber operas from all periods, especially baroque and works by contemporary Slovenian and other composers. SKGG works with a range of theatre and music creators and practitioners to connect with organizations and institutions presenting chamber music-theater productions.  

Co-producers and performance partners include: Cankarjev Dom Ljubljana, Slovenian National Theatre Opera and Ballet, Slovenian Academy of Music, Festival Velenje, Glasbena Matica, Imago Sloveniae, Opera Povera (Czech Republic). We are grateful for support from patrons including, the Ministry of Culture, Municipality of Ljubljana, Italian Institute for Culture in Slovenia, Slovenian Composers Society, American Embassy in Ljubljana, Bohuslav Martinu foundation.  http://www.skgg.eu/


Katja Konvalinka studied piano and singing in Ljubljana Slovenia followed by further study in Graz, Austria. She received her doctorate from the University of Ljubljana in 2018. She first performed in Mozart's operas in Theater im Palais Graz (as Despina – Cosi fan Tutte, Zerlina – Don Giovanni, Servilia – La Clemenza di Tito, First Lady – Die Zauberflöte). She also appeared at the Municipal Theatre in Leoben as Mary (The Bartered Bride), Gretchen (Der Wildschütz), Hortense (Der Opernball). She made her debut at the Ljubljana Opera in 2006 in the role of Princess Ninetta (Love for Three Oranges) and sang there among others The Diary of Anne Frank, (Grigori Frid), Fanny (Rossini – La cambiale di Matrimonio), At the Split Summer Festival in Croatia she sang Zerlina (Don Giovanni) and has also sung in Opera Maribor. She is artistic Director of Slovenian Chamber Music Theatre having sung many roles with them including Menotti's The Telephone and The Old Maid and the Thief and Nyman’s The Man who mistook his Wife for a Hat.  She has championed the works of Slovenian composers such as Tomaž Svete, Pavel Mihelčič, Dušan Bavdek and Bojana Šaljić Podešva


Simon Dvoršak Conductor, pianist, accompanist and professor at the Academy of Music regularly co-operates with the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, the SNT Maribor Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of RTV Slovenia and the Maribor Festival Orchestra. He specialises in opera and musical theatre. As opera conductor he debuted with Ipavec's opera Teharski plemiči, and as an assistant conductor, he prepared premiere of Fireworks, Dido and Aeneas and La bohème in SNT Maribor. He also conducted the operettas Countess Marica and The Merry Widow. During his studies in London, he was involved in the production of Into the Woods, West Side Story and Sweeny Todd as a conductor, under the direction of the renowned Stewart Pedlar. For the Slovenian Chamber Music Theatre he conducted operas La Cecchina, The Old Maid and the Thief, Hero of Our Time, Gentle Giant, Ada and The Man who mistook his Wife for a Hat. He was also a mentor for young conductors who performed in operas Brundibar and Hobbit.

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