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News - Holt explores the work of feminist writer Gillman

Kiran Ridley
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales explores the unsettling story of a woman’s obsession with her surroundings, with the world premiere of a new commission by Simon Holt.

The work by Holt, The Yellow Wallpaper, is a new dramatic piece for soprano and orchestra, based on the story by the early feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gillman. The story tells of a woman who is locked in a room by her husband as a rest cure for post-natal depression. After a summer spent in the room, the young woman begins to imagine that there are beings within the room’s walls.

The new work will be conducted by Thierry Fischer in a concert at Cardiff’s BBC Hoddinott Hall on Tuesday 29 October, and will feature soprano Elizabeth Atherton. Elizabeth and the Orchestra are joined by six other female voices, which will be placed amongst the orchestral musicians on stage. The yellow wallpaper in the title is referred to not just in the libretto, but also by the percussion players, who use decorator’s lining paper and twigs as part of the atmospheric soundworld.

Simon Holt describes his inspiration behind the new work: “I've known about Charlotte Perkins Gilman's novella since 1981… It's certainly haunted me ever since that first reading. When the Orchestra invited me to write the last piece for my Composer-in-Association position, I felt that this was finally the time to deal with it.”

“The way the story is told is utterly uncompromising and, considering when it was written, the courage of it is extraordinary. I wanted to try and make the audience feel as if they might be in the room with the protagonist and for them to have an insight into what she's going through.”

This work, commissioned by Radio 3, is one of the works composed by Simon Holt as part of his tenure as Composer-in-Association of the Orchestra.

Tickets are available here

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