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Work of the week – The Collected Works of Billy the Kid

On 6 March, a new chamber by Gavin Bryars’, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, will premiere at the Théâtre de la Croix-Rousse in Lyon, directed by Jean Lacornerie and performed by players of the Percussions Claviers de Lyon, alongside an excellent cast led by Bertrand Belin as Billy the Kid and Claron McFadden as the narrator. The project is a co-commission between the Theatre du Croix Rousse and the Theatre de la Renaissance.

Based on Michael Ondaatje’s book The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems, the opera is composed for a small ensemble of just 6 players (4 tuned percussion, piano and violin), with an adapted libretto written by Jean Lacornerie.

Garvin Bryars – Billy the Kid: A Cold- Blooded Killer

William H. Bonney, known commonly as Billy the Kid, was an American Old West gunfighter, who participated in New Mexico’s Lincoln County War and is known to have killed eight men. Ondaatje’s book depicts the last year of the outlaw’s life, though the text is not intended to make a linear account of events. Instead, the text explores the mind of a cold-blooded killer who has become the subject of legend from recollections of people who had met Billy interspersed with poems from the writer’s own imagination. In the opera, the story is told by two voices: Billy and a narrator who, at certain times, also takes on the roles of female characters such as Sally Chisum and Angela Dickinson.

Three further performances of The Collected Works of Billy the Kid will take place in Lyon from 7-9 March, followed by a tour throughout France, Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands 10 March-25 May.