Her Day opera is coming

Women-led performance to be part of Coventry City of Culture.

A powerful new female-led opera, Her Day will premiere in Coventry in March 2022 to mark International Women’s Day 2022 and as part of Coventry UK City of Culture.

Written by Sayan Kent (composer/music) and Vanessa Oakes (librettist/words), this new opera puts a spotlight on the lives of ordinary Coventry women engaged in everyday acts of peaceful protest. Four distinct stories shared at a weekly friendship group give a moving and at times very funny insight into their daily lives and our common need for connection. The opera’s themes of self-care, family re-union visas, coercive control, autonomy and mental health demonstrate universal female power and resilience expressed beautifully through song.

Sayan Kent, composer said: “I’ve always been entranced by storytelling through song. My first introduction was through my mum’s record collection of the musicals of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, and famous opera arias. All of which I listened to hungrily. I’ve written a lot of music for theatre but opera is a new form for me as a composer, not because I haven’t wanted to write it but because until now I hadn’t had the opportunity.

“When Vanessa and I decided to write an opera we knew nothing about the journey we would go on or what to expect. In composing the music to Vanessa’s words, I wrestled with expectations: What is a modern opera? Who am I writing for? How can I make the most of the voices who will interpret it? Will it sound clever enough?… In the end, I resolved that the only way was just to write it the way I write. Not to over intellectualise but to find the spirit of the story and to allow the characters, with their moods, emotions, humour, to express themselves through whatever music came out of me.”

Her Day centres on the female experience, with the opera being developed from workshops with local women producing an authentic and powerful celebration of the impact of everyday female actions. Women in the local community have been central to the design of the space as well as the stories told and the opera includes a community chorus of local female singers.

The opera embodies the International Women’s Day theme for 2022 which is ‘break the bias’. Both composer Sayan and librettist Vanessa are members of the Royal Opera House’s Engender Initiative and Her Day aims to help promote equality in opera with over 70% of all roles on and off-stage female.

The opera will be directed by Lucy Bradley (Royal Opera House, OperaUpClose, Glyndebourne) with music director Berrak Dyer (Royal Opera House, Opera Holland Park, The Opera Story) and chorus leader Mariana Rosas (Colla Voce Chamber Choir and Birmingham City Council Choir). The cast includes Nina Bennett, Kelly Glyptis, Grace Nyandoro and Claire Wild with stage design by Nancy Surman and lighting design by David Muir.

Richard Willacy, Executive Director of Birmingham Opera Company and Her Day mentor said: “This is Vanessa and Sayan’s first opera and from the start, they have reached out to the women they’re inspired by and the audiences they want to reach. Her Day seeks to bring us together to share in Intimate insightful and personal moments which we will all recognise but which often remain behind closed doors.”

To mark International Women’s Day, performances of Her Day will begin at the HMV Empire Coventry on 8th March and continue until 12th March, including a relaxed performance on 9th March, captioning using the Difference Engine on 10th March and British Sign Language interpretation on 12th March. Details of performance times, how to book tickets and accessibility can be found here.