Children's Opera:
Odysseus and the Cyclops
An opera in 3 parts for baritone soloist, child soloists and choir, school orchestra, and piano (teacher's part).

PREMIERE:
27th and 28th May 1982
Temple Speech Room, Rugby School
300 children from 28 Middle Schools in the Rugby area and members of the Rugby Schools Orchestra
Tom Cowhig  - Baritone soloist
Mary Littlemore - Piano
Directors - Valerie Brodie and Gwen Proudlock
Previewed on BBC Television. 

Have you performed in any of these works or come to watch? Please share below!

If you have performed in any of Andrew Downes' works or come to listen, please share your experiences in the Premieres Blog! Also see what others have said. Thank you so much for your contribution.


The one eyed Polyphemus by Marshall, Logan, tr


An account by his wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on September 28th, 2019

More info on Odysseus & the Cyclops


In the late seventies Andrew was wanting to make a name for himself as a composer.  In those days there were fantastic regional Arts Councils which supported up and coming artists. Andrew asked me if we could ask Dorothy Wilson, Head of Music at West Midlands Arts, to dinner, and introduce her to his music.  We duly invited Dorothy over to our house and she heard recordings of Andrew's pieces.  She seemed very impressed, and it wasn't long before she was recommending Andrew to local performers, who in their turn began to commission works from Andrew, with funding from West Midlands Arts. 

Andrew's first commission was from the Birmingham Festival Choral Society for the opening concert celebrating the restoration of Birmingham Cathedral. For this Andrew wrote The Temple of Solomon.


Another early major commission with funding from West Midlands Arts was from Rugby Schools Music Association. They wanted a children's opera to be performed by children from 28 Middle Schools in the Rugby Area in the Temple Speech Room of Rugby Public School!


Andrew has always asked for my input when he has needed texts and libretti. We both thought the Greek legend of Odysseus and the Cyclops would be a perfect story for him to set. First of all I scribbled out a libretto in 3 Acts, leaving it then for Andrew to reduce as he saw fit. Music requires far less words than a play, because emotions are conveyed by the music and a vocal line takes longer to deliver than a spoken one.


I was bowled over by the wonderful setting Andrew created. The production, created by Valerie Brodie and Gwen Proudlock, with around 200 children, was tremendously exciting.  BBC Midlands Today came and recorded the final rehearsal for the following feature which was broadcast before the premiere.



Postcard from Sue and Val:



Preview in the Birmingham Post, 01/031982



Preview in Birmingham Evening Mail, 27/02/1982



Poster:



Programme:



Review:


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When our daughters, Anna and Paula, were Middle School age, they and I sang in our local church choir, run by the organist, Wendy Pettit, and I ran the church children's orchestra with Wendy.  Because I knew Wendy liked to put on productions at the Church, I gave her a copy of the score of Andrew's opera, Odysseus and the Cyclops.


Wendy's husband, Dave, had a lovely tenor voice, perfect for the Cyclops, and the Middle School Music teacher, Heather Barnett, agreed to help train selected pupils for the project. Anna and Paula sang in it, Anna also played crumhorn, and I led the orchestra, did a lot of preparation of scores, publicity etc.  The production was a great success.  It can be viewed here.


Poster:



Programme:


Photos of the event:

ABOVE: Paula Downes front right, Anna Downes, 5 from the front left


BELOW: Cynthia Downes leading the orchestra

ABOVE: Odysseus & his men arrive at the Island


BELOW: Distressed Cyclops played by David Pettit



Review in the Birmingham Post:



Review in Contact Magazine:


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In 1991, Wendy Pettit organised 2 more performances of the work at Windsor High School.

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