Richard Ayres’ acclaimed chamber opera No. 39: The Cricket Recovers receives its Swiss premiere at Theater Basel on 22 March directed by Daniela Kranz with conductor Stephen Delaney. Premiered at the 2005 Aldeburgh Festival, it has since been presented throughout Europe by the likes of Staatsoper Stuttgart and the Holland Festival.
The Cricket Recovers is based on an award-winning collection of children’s stories by Dutch author Toon Tellgen, adapted by librettist Rozalie Hirs. The story presents an array of animal protagonists overcoming every day human struggles, with the orchestra depicting the surrounding forest.
Ayres’ The Cricket Recovers: Animal characters that are all too human
In The Cricket Recovers, Ayres transports us to an extraordinary forest where one morning, the eponymous cricket wakes up with a gloomy feeling in its head. The proceeding voyage of self-discovery to grapple with his depression with the help of his fellow animals is both entertaining and moving. The animals also help an elephant who can’t stop climbing trees. As the sun rises on a new day, the memories of the previous one vanish leaving only the wise owl wondering what sort of world she inhabits.
This is a story for adults and children alike, touching upon the realities of depression in a simple and beautifully direct way. Through its magical setting, very human emotions and desires are brought to light:
In this parallel territory, all sorts of attractive impossibilities become real. Moral absolutes matter: the distinction between good and bad is fundamental and ultimate retribution is always just. Time and the natural world are also magically flexible: one may live forever, or temporarily adopt other shapes; animals can talk, acquire neuroses, live heroically. – Christopher Fox (The Musical Times)
The Cricket Recovers will run at Theater Basel until 21 May. This summer, another of Ayres’ theatrical works, the dramatic cantata In the Alps, will be presented in the UK by Aurora Orchestra with soprano Mary Bevan and conductor Nicholas Collon at St John’s Smith Square, London on 3 June and at Symphony Hall, Birmingham on 4 June.
Photo: Stefan Odry (Production of Staatstheater Braunschweig 2009)