Inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, Ayres also drew on texts by Edgar Allen Poe, Christina Rossetti, William Shakespeare and Giacomo Leopardi to create a theatrical work in a similar vein to his highly popular earlier work No 42 (In the Alps) (2008).
The piece is a darkly comic, cyclical tale about a discontented man in search of meaning. He digs from his garden down towards the centre of the earth to find the underworld, then all the way back up again to heaven, only to find himself in his garden once more.
Sampled electronics feature heavily throughout the piece, in keeping with Ayres’ current fascination with electronic sounds as heard in recent works such as No 48 (night studio) (2015) and No 51 (resting songs) (2017).
“The bass will sing the voices of all the characters during the performance, as though singing to himself. This confuses the certainty of reality, and creates the impression of listening to the central character’s thoughts. Are we as an audience watching reality, or observing a dream and fantasy world? Is the man in fact awake, asleep or even dead? This I want to keep ambiguous.” – Richard Ayres
No 50 (The Garden) was commissioned by London Sinfonietta for its 50th anniversary celebrations and co-commissioned by Asko|Schönberg with initial development funded by The Royal Opera.
© Schott Music
Recorded Wednesday 17 April 2019 at 7.30pm,
Queen Elizabeth Hall
Richard Ayres No 50 (The Garden)
(2019; UK Premiere of a London Sinfonietta co-commission)
Geoffrey Paterson conductor
Joshua Bloom bass
Martha Colburn visual artist
Sound Intermedia sound and visual projection
Tony Simpson lighting designer
Sophie Motley staging director
Film edited by Martha Colburn