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The Strangest of Angels

Author: Poorhouse International

The World Premiere of a chamber opera from New Zealand Opera filmed on location in a mental hospital.

  • Strangest of Angels | Copyright: © Poorhouse International

    Strangest of Angels © Poorhouse International

The Strangest of Angels is a chamber opera for two Sopranos and a 15 piece orchestral ensemble. The opera itself is a collaboration between three New Zealand creatives: writer Georgia Jamieson Emms, composer Kenneth Young and soprano Anna Leese.

Jayne Tankersley is cast in the role of New Zealand writer Janet Frame and Anna Leese will play the fictional nurse Katherine Baillie, who takes up a position at Seacliff Mental Hospital in 1952. The narrative, based on Janet Frame´s novel Faces in the Water, her autobiography An Angel at My Table and letters, follows Katherine´s discovery that her old classmate Janet Frame is now her patient, wrongly diagnosed with schizophrenia. In the weeks before Janet´s scheduled lobotomy, Katherine is torn between her sense of duty and her growing empathy with Janet. Katherine´s inner demons, carefully concealed behind a starched uniform, threaten her own sanity, and it becomes clear that Janet is the more calm and rational character of the two. This leaves us to ponder the wider question of authority and mental health – who gets to decide who is sane and who is insane?
Finally, it is Katherine who delivers the news of Janet´s salvation – she is spared the pending lobotomy – and gives Janet a typewriter. Janet can now reclaim her words, while Katherine is less sure of the rigid boundaries between sanity and insanity.

Rebecca Tansley, whom we admire for her recording of Semele, will film the opera on location with playback technique having recorded the sound track with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the composer.

Production year 2022
Duration 54 min.
Production Company New Zealand Opera
Director Rebecca Tansley
Video format 4K

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