One act opera for soprano and chamber ensemble
Text by Fleur Adcock
Iris dreaming was commissioned and premiered by soprano Joanne Roughton-Arnold. The first performance was accompanied by the Octandre Ensemble conducted by Jon Hargreaves, at the Grimeborn Festival in London in August 2016. The version with string trio was premiered with Joanne and NZTrio at the Adam Chamber Music Festival in Nelson on 6 February 2017.
About the work
Iris dreaming is based on the life of celebrated New Zealand writer and feminist, Iris Wilkinson (also know as Robin Hyde), whose short but intensely dramatic life took her from New Zealand via war-torn China to London on the brink of WWII where she killed herself in 1939, aged 33. She was a star, a significant figure in New Zealand literature, a respected journalist in her time and a pioneer of feminism.
Fiona Maddocks in her review for The Guardian noted, ‘Whitehead … mixes tonal and melodic writing with Māori and Pacific rim-inspired techniques, especially audible in music for flute and piccolo, or more overtly in the gentle, clattery wash of rainsticks.’
Lyric coloratura soprano and a chamber ensemble of flute doubling piccolo, oboe, clarinets (B♭, E♭ and bass), bassoon, harp, 2 violins, viola, cello and double bass.
There is also a version for soprano and piano trio.
The score will soon be available from SOUNZ.
Films of performances both versions of the opera are available online.
RNZ Concert’s recording of the New Zealand premiere in February 2017 is available online.
Reviews and interviews
The Waitangi Day performance in Nelson in 2017 was reviewed in the Nelson Evening Mail.
A review by Elizabeth Kerr of the Nelson performances was broadcast by RNZ Concert on Upbeat.
Joanne was interviewed for Kim Hill’s programme on RNZ National.
There is also an interview with Joanne and me, filmed before the Nelson performances.
Bryan Crump interviewed me on RNZ National’s Nights programme shortly after my return from the premiere in London.