A documentary, produced almost entirely in quarantine, exploring creative processes, isolation and digital connections.
In 2018 the National Opera Studio commissioned 12:40; 12 new arias by 12 composers and 12 librettists for 12 singers, to mark the Studio’s 40th anniversary year.
In December 2019, a follow up project, 12:42, was planned, with the support of the Nicholas John Trust (NJT), but development came to a juddering halt due to the Coronavirus in March 2020. Work on the detail of ambitious, curated live performances of the new works, which should have been ready for June 2020, was abandoned. However, reacting swiftly, with the support of the NJT and determined not to abandon the project, 12:42 turned digital.
Each singer was partnered with a diverse, handpicked team; composer, librettist and pianist – teams of four. Through Zoom, telephone, e-mail and WhatsApp the teams nurtured ideas drawn from the singer’s past life, future ambitions or dreams and, through collaboration, moulded these ideas into arias for operas in development. The new arias which are sung in English, Welsh, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Chibcha (Colombian indigenous language), Xhosa (South Africa), Scottish English and Sāmoan have been designed to demonstrate the individuality of ideas and vocal character of each singer.
Part 1 (video in header above) is a unique documentary film about the collaborative creative process of producing brand new arias under extraordinary and strict quarantine conditions. It highlights creative debates, tracks stories and impressions, gives examples of experiments in setting text to music, shows how ideas are wrought, calls in on online coaching, glimpses pianists’ preparation and highlights many small challenges faced by the 42 people involved. When lockdown came, no one knew how to proceed. Every new way of working had to be tried and tested and professional working relationships established afresh at a distance.
Part 2 is a playlist of all the arias with notes about each creative team and background information and the planned full operas. The playlist has been arranged so that you can choose which aria to hear. You can dip in at will.
12:42 is a testament to collaboration, trust, a meeting of minds and making the very best creative choices at a time of crisis for all performing artists. Many of the new works reflect the mood of the moment…and you, the viewer, will catch those moods when you hear the arias in the playlist.
Generously supported by the Nicholas John Trust
Directed by Alisdair Kitchen and Produced by David Sulkin.
In partnership with Second Movement, with additional assistance from the Librettist Network