Belwade Stables, Aberdeenshire
Ben’s first opera was a huge success, using the Belwade farm stables near Aboyne, Aberdeenshire which were animated by counter-tenor and soprano voices and cello.
Ben wrote the libretto as a comical act of revenge on his first girlfriend who had an unusually strong relationship with her horse.
A bizarre triangle between two fourteen year olds and the horse is played out in reality and fantasy, exploring the murderousness of adolescent desire as well as its vulnerability.
Pippa Murphy’s score was grand, macabre and intimate by turns, involving a cinematic pre-recorded score as well as the cello (which represented the horse) and two voices.
Bolted was a very effective collaboration with sound festival Aberdeen and the staff of Belwade who even provided a horse who took a starring role in the final scene.
On the morning of the world premiere Aboyne had the distinction of being the coldest location in the UK, at -6 degrees.
Andrew Clark, Financial Times
Bolted dramatises a love-triangle – a girl (soprano Angela Hardie) so besotted by her horse that her boyfriend (countertenor Daniel Keating-Roberts) feels threatened, even after the horse has bolted.
Murphy’s score, an intoxicating mix of folk, madrigal, Britten-esque arioso and pop-rhapsody, veers between lyrical soliloquising and expressive intensity – seamlessly connected and wonderfully atmospheric, even when accompanied by a winter morning’s freezing temperatures.
The secret of Bolted is its power of suggestion. It doesn’t need a fancy set or a big cast to stoke our imagination. It doesn’t even need the stables. Like all the most expressive performances, it creates its own reality, and this one lingered long after the fading of the soprano’s ecstatic repetitions of “My horse” and the silencing of the cellist’s clip-clop rhythms.