Royal College of Music Opera Studio present the story of famous showman PT Barnum and soprano Jenny Lind in the UK premiere of Libby Larsen’s Barnum’s Bird
Director Ella Marchment’s production of Barnum’s Bird opens in June 2023.
The Royal College of Music Opera Studio journeys to both sides of the Atlantic in the UK premiere of Grammy Award-winning composer Libby Larsen’s Barnum’s Bird. The opera is based on the true story of the great showman PT Barnum and his star opera singer, Swedish soprano Jenny Lind who, later in her life, was appointed professor of singing at the Royal College of Music when it was founded in 1882, one of only two female professors at the time.
Written in 2000, the two-act chamber opera tells the story of the famous tour of America in 1850 where PT Barnum sensationalised and marketed Jenny Lind in a way that had never been seen before.
Leading the majority female production team is director Ella Marchment, acclaimed as one of Europe’s most original and progressive directors. She commented: ‘This piece fascinates me because it presents the notion of art and humanity and raises numerous questions as to whether success can ever equate to happiness.’
Jenny Lind is performed by both Henna Mun and RCM Stephen Catto Memorial Scholar Lylis O’Hara while the title role of PT Barnum is performed by Dafydd Jones and Marcus Swietlicki.
Michael Rosewell, Director of Opera and conductor of the RCM Opera Orchestra, commented: ‘We are all extremely excited to have the opportunity to perform Barnum’s Bird, a wonderfully engaging and entertaining opera by Libby Larsen, one of today’s leading American composers. Based on a story which figures the soprano Jenny Lind as one of its central characters, we are delighted to be presenting the UK premiere of this work, especially given the ‘Swedish Nightingale’s’ important historical connection with the Royal College of Music.’
Grammy Award-winning composer Libby Larsen has written over 500 words spanning many genres from intimate vocal and chamber music to orchestral works and over 15 operas. One of America’s most performed living composers, her discography includes more than 50 recordings of her work, and she is regularly sought after for commissions by the world’s leading orchestras and artists.
Performances of Barnum’s Bird take place on 28, 30 June, 1, 3 July and booking is open.
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According to my extensive research Barnum at the time was old and ugly and Jenny Lind surrounded by her team of fellow workers. The Hollywood version – of course – had them falling in and out of each other’s beds. But you can’t beat a snappy title and Ms Larsen certainly has got one.