A production of Benjamin Britten's Curlew River will be the first offering from Ante Terminum Productions, an innovative, London-based opera production company founded by Mertonian Peter Thickett (2014) and fellow Oxford graduate Frederick Waxman (Univ, 2014). The company's ethos is that 'music is about more than what you hear' and their aim is to create vivid and immersive realisations of operas, and to promote the work of talented young musicians and designers.
Peter, who graduated with a BA in Music earlier this year, has since been employed as a brand strategist within an advertising group but has continued to work to realise his vision of establishing an opera production company. "It's tough balancing my day job with ATP," he says, "but it's a sacrifice that feels so incredibly worth it.”
"During my time at Oxford I felt so fortunate being part of such an immensely creative community. While I was delighted to have been offered a job in London straight after graduating, I nevertheless felt that, if I didn't act quickly, I would soon lose that part of myself that had been so heavily invested in the elusive world of the arts. Establishing Ante Terminum Productions has given me the motivation to carry on interrogating music and text at the level I had been doing at Merton. It has given me the opportunity to carry on making connections with like-minded people; to bring our skills together and create something that lives outside of ourselves.
"Since the age of about 17, opera has held a particularly special place in my heart. Initially it represented a sort of escape—a refuge that I wasn't quite able to grasp. It arrived to me with an ineluctable charm, with voices that told stories beyond words, with depths that I hadn't ever really conceived of. It seemed to encapsulate every potential embodiment of meaning—a truly holistic art. When I listen to opera, when I direct opera, I can hear or say whatever I like, then look and listen again and hear and say something else completely different. It never ceases to amaze me."
The company’s first production, Curlew River, will run for five nights, from 9-13 January 2018 and is set within the 12th-century Parish Church of St Bartholomew-the-Great, Smithfield. Speaking about the production, Peter said:
“While at Merton, I found myself drawn to Benjamin Britten's music - so much so that I directed two of his operas (The Rape of Lucretia & Albert Herring) during my time there. Curlew River was the first of Britten's pieces that I was ever introduced to in my schooldays; it felt like time to tie that knot.”
Curlew River marked a quilting point in the development of Britten's musical style, paving the way for the 'orientalism' that was to pervade his work right up until his death. Written amidst an international landscape fraught with political tensions and with the threat of destruction lingering on the brink, Curlew River unfolds as a deeply pathetic meditation on pain, loss and, however eventual, acceptance.
Although its current focus is opera, Ante Terminum Productions plans to expand its remit to installation art, ballet and jazz with a concerted emphasis upon new artists, new music and commissions. Peter now hopes to secure funding to diversify the company, and to employ a seasonal model of curation to major opera houses. The company's next production is set to feature fellow Merton alumnus, the bass-baritone Tom Herring (2016).