Danae Eleni is an ambassador for contemporary music who hugely enjoys collaborating with composers when they are devising pieces. Danae has been thrilled to perform some works written especially for her voice, and also to be part of workshops devising new pieces of Theatre. Please find some examples of these projects and a sample contemporary repertoire list below.
Why Create new work?
Contemporary composers deserve a voice, just as old works need to be rediscovered every time they are performed. In an opera, when people sing the words it is as if the characters say them for the first time, and their thoughts have provided their impetus to speak/sing at all! I feel very lucky to have premiered the works that I have, enjoying the challenge of learning different vocal techniques as required, and offering a vessel for the works of living composers, with whom I can discuss their music and its interpretation.
Who inspired me to start singing contemporary music?
When I was studying Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology (and Phonetics) at Worcester College, Oxford; I was fortunate enough to live and work with some amazing composers, and conversations with them sparked the development of this branch of my career.
Guy Newbury, Pembroke College, has composed many vocal works. We premiered Adria together (Guy is also a fantastic collaborative pianist) and performed in the final of the Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition in 2009 with Adria as the highlight of our programme. We have performed at least one of his songs a year at St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh; and Pembroke College and the Holywell Music Room, Oxford. We also performed Adria as part of a song recital at St John's, Smith Square, London.
My first foray into extended vocal techniques was due to the marvellous Nirmali Fenn, who has been an inspiration to me for many years. She was the first composer to trust me with a piece for soprano and chamber ensemble. We workshopped the UK premiere of Nirmali's "Psychotic Episode" with the ISIS Ensemble in the Dennis Arnold Hall in the Oxford University Music Faculty, and the life and precision with which Nirmali rehearsed and breathed the essence of her music into all the players was a revelation to me. She taught me to be braver with my voice and create effects from the breath and the music, rather than super imposing them.
Due to being a "quick-study" I have often taken on the challenge of learning new works in a short period of time, if another soloist is indisposed. Through this I was one of the resident sopranos of the 2nd Athens Composer/Performer Conference in 2011, where I first met Enrico Bertelli and Kelvin Thomson. The conference was chaired by Prof. Roger Redgate, and I performed his "Mirlitonnades"; Edmund Hunt's "Song of Grotti" and collaborated with Kelvin and Enrico on "The Arrival of the Beat Box". In addition to performing in the concert, we also demonstrated during Kelvin Thomson's lecture, and ran a workshop on contemporary classical performance for secondary school children, which was received with a real intensity that has gone on to inspire me to broaden the audience for contemporary classical music to younger audiences too.
The Arrival of the Beat Box
Kelvin Thomson and Enrico Bertelli
We workshopped this piece in London, looking at different ways we could use the words and imagery from Sylvia Plath's "The Arrival of the Bee Box".
The Arrival of the Beat Box is a ten-minute musical/dramatic work for soprano and speaking body-percussionist. It is a collaborative creation by Kelvin Thomson (composer), Danae Eleni (soprano) and Enrico Bertelli (speaking body-percussionist).
The work follows two alternating threads: the nomos, an ancient Greek symposium song-form; and the narrative trajectory of Sylvia Plath’s poem The Arrival of the Bee Box. Texts for the nomos include ‘bee’ metaphors of Socrates and Pindar. The performance features a new language derived from human versions of music technology ‘sampling techniques’ e.g. reversed words, stuttering and fragmentation of words into soprano-intoned vowels and percussionist-beatboxed consonants.In addition to this new language, the work also includes some Greek, Latin, Italian, English and gestures. The compositional process involved both traditionally scored music and a set of controlled improvisation parameters. The piece is performed by bodies alone and suggests a pre-linguistic time when sounds and gestures were the only forms of communication.
The Opera was recently referred to in Nature Magazine
It is the focal point of Kelvin Thomson's Chapter 11: Two Bee in Sound, Music and the Moving-Thinking Body - edited by Marilyn Wyers and Osvaldo Glieca
Inaugural St Anne's Composition Competition
I was delighted to be chosen as soprano-in-residence for the inaugural St Anne's College Composition Competition in Oxford (2014). It was a pleasure to collaborate with Guy Newbury to workshop and then perform submissions by students at St Anne's College, Oxford - supervised by Dr John Traill.
- Tom Stafford - A Garden in the city of Industry
- Toby Huelin - google poems
- Joe Fell - Leda and the Swan
- Frankie Perry - Owl and Echo
- Stephen Bradshaw - Perch
Other Contemporary Repertoire Performed
- Tim Benjamin Mrs Lazarus: Title role in the World Premiere of the monodrama for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble - Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London
- Alexander Campkin Stone Heart (Laura) - Grimeborn, Arcola Theatre, London;
Predictability (Female Mathematician) - Rough for Opera, Cockpit Theatre, London;
Possession (Olive & Elizabeth) - Tete a Tete Opera Festival, London
- Nirmali Fenn Psychotic Episode - monodrama for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble - ISIS, Dennis Arnold Hall, Oxford
- Christopher Meux The Garden Party (Emily Scott) - The Little Opera Company, London
- Danny Saleeb She walketh veiled and sleeping... - Workshop at Royal College of Music, London
- Joy Sigaud Belle: A Ballad Opera (Mother) - Britten Theatre, London
- Kelvin Thomson The Silence of the Bees (A Science Opera) (Scientist); Bee
- Sam Baker New Zealand Folk Songs
- Laurie Bamon Blessing; Lullaby; For Danae, on her birthday (Written for me)
- Howard Blake Tu es le gisant
- Edmund Hunt Song of the Grotti
- Elizabeth Maconchy Sun, Moon and Stars; L'horloge (with clarinettist Alex Roberts)
- Thea Musgrave A Suite O'Bairnsangs
- Guy Newbury Adria; Cuckoo Song; O Ombre Vane; Sanctuaries; The Mountainside of Dreams
- Roger Redgate Mirlitonnades