On Macbeth (Glyndebourne/ROH)

“Elegantly creepy, defiantly cool” - Bachtrack

“the orchestral writing is crisp and incisive, conjuring up with imagination the successive atmospheres required for the tragedy’s trajectory.” The Guardian

Next Performance: LNM Development Showing. 27.09.18. Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh


Handspun, commissioned by ROH2 and premiered at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden as part of Exposure Dance, Feb 2012.

Luke Styles is a composer prolific in opera, the theatre and instrumental music. Over the last four years Luke’s operas including Macbeth and Tycho’s Dream have been performed at Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Vault Festival. These operas have explored diverse worlds including cabaret, war and science fiction, and allowed him to delve into sensual lyricism, humour, chaos and darkness in his music.

Luke has created dance works for the New Music Biennial (performed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games) and circus works together with long time collaborator, aerialist Ilona Jantti. These works display Luke’s belief in pushing new music into areas where it is not usually encountered. Handspun, a contemporary circus work, continues to tour throughout Europe.

In 2014 Luke was signed by IMG Artists following his time as the first Glyndebourne Young Composer in Residence (2011-2014). Luke continued his creative partnerships with organisations in 2015 as composer in residence at the Foundling Museum, the first composer to occupy the position since Handel.

Collaborations are central to Luke’s work and this has led to new works with conductors and soloists Vladimir Jurowski and David Pyatt and ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Luke is currently working on two new operas, one for the Perth Festival and another for Opera Philadelphia, with premieres in 2018 and 2021 respectively. Alongside his operatic work Luke is working on a concerto for Double Bass and a Song Cycle for Mark Padmore and the Britten Sinfonia.

Luke is a former student of Wolfgang Rihm, George Benjamin and Detlev Muller-Siemens. Read more HERE.


Opera Development

In the middle of Feburary I was lucky enough to get to travel from London to Perth (Australia) for a week of development on my new opera, Ned Kelly, with the amazing Lost and Found Opera team. In previous blogs I’ve written about how important the development process is to a new opera and this week was no exception.

The week was spent going through the opera (in vocal score, although we were joined by virtuosic percussionist Genevieve Wilkins for two days) with a fine tooth comb, testing every word and bar to see if the text, drama and characterisation were clear and working in a way that both I and the team were happy with. This sounds like a fairly straight forward process, but it involves learning the music well enough to hear it presented as it might be in performance and then making a judgement about how well it functions. These decisions are reached through input from singers, librettist, musicians, director, conductor and myself. So there tends to be lots of voices, all meaning well, that need to be listened to and considered seriously and respected, before making changes or new decisions.

In the first few days I made a considerable number of changes to make the piece clearer, in terms of text audibility and moments where a particular vocal setting or even chord from the piano might interrupt and disturb a dramatic moment. I think opera/theatre, in the taking an audience on a journey can involve sharp contrasts and rapid changes of emotional/musical states, but these have to bring an audience along for the ride. If the music or word setting loses the audience by pulling them out of the drama, even if this is within a sharp contrast or change of mood then something needs to change. So hopefully any of these problems that presented themselves were solved during the week. I’m confident they were.

The second function of the time in Perth was to work towards a presentation of selected moments of the opera for a sold out “preview” performance as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. This came off very well and led into a Q and A session with librettist Peter Goldsworthy and director Thomas de Mallet Burgess about the themes of the opera and the process of writing a libretto. An interesting discussion, which I added the odd composer’s perspective to here in there, especially when it came to the process of collaboration with Peter.

I was extremely excited during the time in Perth and can hardly wait till rehearsals in Jan 2019 being and then the premiere of the completed opera in Feb 2019. Today I finally finished orchestrating the opera, which feels like a big milestone has been reached. The next phase of the work is editing, reviewing and tidying up of the score. This will probably take another month or so, and then the piece will really be completed.

Now that the main creative/compositional work on Ned is completed I will move on to a new chamber music work for three partners in the USA, Hong Kong and Australia. The work is a quartet for 2 pianos and 2 percussionists. I am taking the lead very much from Bartok’s Sonata for the same combination of instruments. I don’t think I will use exactly the same percussion instruments as Bartok, probably less instruments and smaller ones at that (no Timpani for instance). I just finished reading a Bartok biography and it talks about the obstacles to performances of the Sonata in Bartok’s life time being very much about the practicalities of performances and touring with the range of percussion instruments he wrote for. This is something I want to try and avoid.

So a change of direction away from vocal music for now, at least until I come to tackling a new 30minute song cycle in 6 weeks time of so.

Purchase: The Girls Who Wished to Marry the Stars from NMC, Here.

Macbeth premiered in 2015 at Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

To get in touch please contact my agent at IMG. Bridget Canniere.

Chasing The Nose. Mixed classical and jazz ensemble.