An opera composed especially for children below the age of three is to make its debut in the UK. Korall Koral (‘Chorale Coral’), a 20-minute 'baby opera' that was composed by the Norwegian Maja Ratkje will receive four performances in Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and London at the end of this month.
Ratkje points out that the infant age group is largely ignored by professional artists, but she herself believes that there is much to be said for making art for babies. 'There’s always a ready supply of new babies,' she says in an interview in The Guardian.
The opera takes place in a shell-shaped tent: the audience sits in a circle around two performers who crawl around the floor, play music from invented instruments (e.g. a sea horse harp, a glass chime jellyfish) and sing arias in Ratkje’s animated vocal style. Ratkje describes it as a 'musical game'.
There is no setting to the opera as such, although Ratkje hints on her website that it might be somewhere beneath the ocean, and this is reinforced by the aquatically themed props and vocals.
Korall Koral has received many positive reviews in Norway – described as 'incredibly sensory' in one – and has reportedly been enjoyed by its intended audience.
The opera will be coming to Britain in mid- to late-November, notably at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, where she is the composer-in-residence.
Beyond her baby opera, Ratkje is known for her active participation in the contemporary music scene and, in particular, her experimentation with voice and minimalist composition. Two years ago she wrote a piece for the world’s largest pair of horn loudspeakers in protest at a projected scheme to dump 200m3 of waste into a fjord.
Korall Koral will be staged at the Creative Arts Building, Huddersfield on 24 November, Dewsbury Town Hall on 25 November, Belfast Opera House on 27-28 November, and Southbank Centre London on 30 November-2 December. The Huddersfield Contemporary Music festival, which will be performing Maja Ratkje's works, takes place between 16-25 November.
Jeremy Pound is currently BBC Music Magazine’s Deputy Editor, a role he has held since 2004. Before that, he was the features editor of Classic CD magazine, and has written for a colourful array of publications ranging from Music Teacher to History Revealed, Total Football and Environment Action; in 2018, he edited and co-wrote The King’s Singers: Gold 50th anniversary book.