A Children's Opera for W11 Opera, commissioned for the company's 40th anniversary
Libretto by Christina Jones
First performance: 2 December 2011, Riverside Studios, London W6
Conductor: Philip Sunderland Director: William Relton Designer: Neil Irish (sets) Caroline Bronwen Hughes (costumes) Choreography: Maggie Rawlinson Lighting: Stephen Ley
William Carrington, an artist
Georgie, his wife
Their children: Crimson, Emerald, Indigo, Amber, Sky, Violet and Ruby
Her children: Agnes, Edith
Charlie and Walter, window cleaners
Cornelia Emily Fitzhamilton
Mary - her companion
Miss Jolly - auctioneer
Mr Pidgeon- banker
Pamela Golden - millionairess
Betty, and Mavis - assistants to Miss Golden
Benzine and Thinner - artists' agents
Old Servants/Staff/Trustees/Executors/Developers/Salvagers/City Gents/Women Racers/Flappers/Psychics/Mothers/Children/Junior Pidgeons/Policemen/Charlie Chaplins/Reporters/Silent Movie Cops
violin, 'cello, bass, 3 clarinets++, trumpet, harp, piano
Part 1: House
The 1920's. A Georgian London townhouse is to be sold at auction. Portraits of the Old Servants are concerned that the house will be demolished and redeveloped. All gather for the auction, and do not notice an elderly lady, Cornelia, in a wheelchair. An artist, William Carrington with his wife Georgie comment on the beauty of the building and the perfect light for painting. As the Auctioneer goes to sell the house to the highest bidder, Cornelia interrupts and declares herself the long lost heiress to the estate. On a whim, she bequeaths the house to the artists.
Part 2: Creation
William finds the house a catalyst for creativity, but Mr Pidgeon, the bank manager, with his junior Pidgeons warn him that he cannot afford the costs of the house. Two agents appear, and overwhelmed with William's work, produce a cheque. The artists can now afford a butler and staff. William gives Georgie a scarf, which reminds them of younger days. They have a family, a palette of seven children, Crimson, Emerald, Indigo, Amber, Sky, Violet and Ruby, whose arrivals are only slightly disturbed by the presence of William's dowdy cousins, Mrs Hardwick and Miss Pinchbeck.
Time passes, and on Crimson's 13th birthday Mrs Hardwick visits with her children Agnes, and Edith, and casts a chill on proceedings. The Old Servants are concerned that the Great Depression has ruined the art market. Mr Pidgeon warns William that he is ruined, but a long distance phone call from New York from a millionaire art collector, Pamela Golden, invites William and georgie to New York. They depart, leaving the children under the care of Mrs Hardwick and Miss Pinchbeck.
Part 3: Crisis
The house is drained of colour and life. Mrs Hardwick tampers with the children's letters and forges a deed of sale, to sell the house in William's absence. The Carrington children are now servants, and ill treated. Developers and Salvagers come to appraise the house. Miss Pinchbeck steals the scarf that Georgie had left the children, and is affected by its colourful vibe. When the children protest they are locked away without food or water. Onlookers and psychics gather by the house and wonder why it is so dark - the Psychic channel the children's dreams, summoning the spirit of Charlie Chaplin to give them hope and courage. In the nick of time, William, Georgie and Pamela Golden return, before the house is gutted. Miss Pinchbeck reveals Mrs Hardwick's duplicity and Pamela Golden pays off the builders and developers. Mrs Hardwick is arrested by Policemen when dancing naked in the streets, covered only by the magic scarf. The family is reunited, but the children are unsure whether to trust their parents again.