Anon, an interview with Errollyn Wallen

22 January 2014

This spring, we perform Anon in theatres across England Wales – a contemporary opera that fuses singing, live soundscape and theatre performance. Inspired by the Fallen Women season, the focus of the piece is the modern exploitation and abuse of women. The piece has been written by award-winning Errollyn Wallen who recently composed the music for the Paralympic Games opening ceremony.
 
As part of the creative process, Errollyn led exploratory workshops in Birmingham schools and universities to gain an insight into the challenges that face young women in today’s world. A series of interviews with sex workers were also conducted to uncover their stories and struggles.
 
When asked about those initial explorations, Errollyn said, “Anon is loosely based on Manon Lescaut, the novel by Abbé Prévost. Rhian Hutchings (WNO Youth and Community Director) had given me the brief of composing an opera on the exploitation of young women across the world. I was a little daunted at first but from the first workshops with girls and young women from RSA Academy in Tipton, Birmingham and Newman University in Bartley Green, Birmingham, I was inspired by the strong response to the themes – of young love, running away, the defiance of parental, cultural and social pressure, taking a wrong step and unwittingly falling into danger.
 
But how does this rich material come to be translated to the stage and the world of opera? Errollyn says that her role in this process does not end when the libretto is completed. “The finished score is only a beginning. I am always fascinated to see how my music and words become 3D.”
 
“I have actually come to relish the not-knowing state of the beginning – the empty page.” Errollyn says.  “I also love working within a team and learning about the different responses to what I’ve created. Creating an opera is a long journey which involves many people. I love the logistic challenges.”
 
The opera addresses issues such as prostitution, human trafficking and sexual abuse – a testing subject for any writer. “The biggest challenge has been in contemplating the extent of the danger and hardships facing so many young women across the world today.” Errollyn commented. “I have tried to give voice to those women whose voices go unheard. I hope that the audience will feel part of the story we are telling.”
 
Anon will be performed at theatres across England and Wales from Friday 14 March to Wednesday 26 March | Book Tickets