The Silent Twins.

Wallen, Errollyn (2007) The Silent Twins. [Composition]


I wrote the opera, The Silent Twins, with libretto by April de Angelis, on commission for Almeida Opera, which opened with the production in 2007. The project was based in part on the book by psychologist Majorie Wallace, and her 1980's meeting with the Gibbons twins in Broadmoor. In research terms, the composition involved a particularly challenging quest into the musical means to engage with the complexities and crises of identity. These complexities were compounded by ‘twinship', and by the particular inheritance specific to girls born in the UK to West Indian immigrants (recalling my own ethnic inheritance). The Gibbons twins were sentenced to Broadmoor following a wave of burglaries and arson attacks. Their story has been widely documented, bringing an additional challenge to the research enquiry, as did their refusal to speak except in private, when they employed a largely incomprehensible idiosyncratic language. The tragedic potential in operatic terms was compounded by the fact that when Wallace met them, they had started to recognise that their dependent relationship was destroying them. On their release in 1993, after twelve years in Broadmoor, Jennifer Gibbons died of no discernable cause, leaving June alone. In research terms I needed to explore the potential of the operatic form to deal with ‘artifice', to enable the staging of silence through its opposite - complex sound. de Angelis and I drew on the twins' story as the major narrative thread, and the twins' roles were differentiated by the soprano voice (June) and the contralto (Jennifer). The score uses a range of coloratura, repetitions and mirroring devices to create vocal dynamics that attempt to embody their complex relationship. The staging of silence itself acts to counterbalance this intricate scoring and offers a glimpse of the public façade the twins offered to the world.

Item Type: Composition
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts
A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts > Centre for Research into Creation in the Performing Arts (ResCen)
Item ID: 755
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2008 13:08
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:12

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