With support from Wellcome Trust, librettist David James Brock and composer Gareth Williams created Breath Cycle -- a concept community opera project for people with cystic fibrosis. Each song is inspired by conversations they had with participants during the project.
Together with Scottish Opera and Gartnavel General Hospital's respiratory unit, the project is also exploring the effect of learning classical singing techniques and breath control on the respiratory health of Breath Cycle participants. Dr Gordon MacGregor and Dr Rachel Drury expect to publish their research this year.
Due to a high risk of infection, people with cystic fibrosis can't physically spend time together. With this in mind, most of this project is being developed and presented online. Breath Cycle considers how participants can interact safely with each other, using the internet as a place to meet, learn and build a community. Voices were recorded individually and put together through video and sound editing.
Visit the Breath Cycle website to learn more.
We wanted our singers to meet and practice together online, and the result is in these pieces, together making up our Skype Opera. In these duets, written for, and performed by, Breath Cycle participants we see four online relationships on a day when it has been announced that the internet will be turned off at midnight.
In Miles Apart, two sisters who live apart get together for a last song. In Kinda Shiny, two people announce their feelings for one another. In Beats for You, two young lovers whose relationship has existed entirely online daydream about the day they can finally be together in person. In Almost Midnight, as the clock strikes down to midnight, two friends make each other promises for the future.
Five Ways of Looking at Fire in the Dark
Five Ways of Looking at Fire in the Dark was inspired by a vocal exercise in which our singers practised projecting a continuous breath across a flame to keep it flickering. Though each section is grounded in a unique perspective, the idea of bringing all the voices together at certain points in the song was important to stress the idea of the music created for Breath Cycle as being for a community of singers.
The Breathing Field
Like Five Ways, The Breathing Field was another piece we put together in the studio. This time we looked at the idea of ‘breath’ directly. The content for this piece was largely inspired and informed by our discussions with participants in all three Breath Cycle cohorts.
Until the Glass Shatters
Written for, and performed by, professional singers, Until the Glass Shatters was inspired by the whole Breath Cycle experience. In the piece, everything, including the wine glass, wants to sing. Until the Glass Shatters examines three stages of the process for lung transplant: waiting, the operation itself, and post-op. The piece is dedicated to all the Breath Cycle participants and has been written to be performed as part of Scottish Opera’s 2014 Opera Highlights tour.
- Until the Glass Shatters is featured in Scottish Opera's 2014 Opera Highlights Tour. Read David Smyth's review on the backtrack website.
- Breath Cycle is featured on Making Music website: "Scottish Opera to premiere new piece inspired by project with cystic fibrosis sufferers"
- Breath Cycle is featured on Cystic Fibrosis Trust website: "Singers Breathing New Life into Physiotherapy"