Alumnus Alastair White at this year’s Tête à Tête

Written and composed by the Scottish composer Alastair White (MMus Composition, 2017), ROBE is a sci-fi fashion opera that redefines music-theatre.

Showing as part of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival on Tuesday, 6 August from 9.20-10.20pm at The Place, London.

ROBE is a post-human fantasia about cartography, cyberpunk and the A.I. singularity featuring high fashion, contemporary dance and musical virtuosity – from the team that created the award-nominated WEAR.


The Story

In a society where the real and the virtual is no longer meaningful, a powerful new being threatens the stability which holds these worlds together.

Descending into the mind of the superintelligence EDINBURGH, a young cartographer is tasked with mapping this creature to grant its desire: to become a living city, teeming with human life and activity. But they grow close, and she weaves into the map those things that cannot be known or spoken: the hidden histories of joy and longing each privately our own. As these rifts in the structure undo causality itself, she must answer the question: what exactly has she created?

Meanwhile, a strange, otherworldly figure sings the song of a king poisoned by a ROBE into which is woven the stories of those he has conquered…

Part elegy for a vanished past, part manifesto for accelerationism into a heady, transhuman future, ROBE dramatises the relationship between virtual reality, official history and raw, personal experience.

The People Behind the Story

Featuring a cast of rising stars from the new music scene: virtuosic pianist and music director Ben Smith (ROH, Wigmore Hall, Barbican), experimental flautist Jenni Hogan (Barbican, Radio 3, Queen Elizabeth Hall), Clara Kanter (Wigmore Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields, BBC), the “theatrically and vocally excellent” Kelly Poukens (Opera Magazine), “staggeringly good” (New Statesman) Rosie Middleton, and Sarah Parkin, described as “a joy to watch” (The Times).

Written and composed by the Scottish composer Alastair White who created last year’s WEAR, since shortlisted for a Scottish Award for New Music and described as “an opera of rare imagination and success” by Mark Berry (Boulezian) and “a beautiful show… I wholly look forward to what this talented company conjure up next” (The 730 Review).

Returning to direct is WEAR’s co-director and -conceptualist Gemma A. Williams (curator and author of Fashion China) with Pamela Schermann (director of the award-nominated Mozart and Salieri and artistic director of Opera In The City).

In a collaboration between high fashion and contemporary opera, Irish designer Michael Stewart joins the company with a collection of works that examines the body within the landscape. Central to the opera’s theme is Michael’s notion of ‘ancient futures’: that there is little difference between artefacts from the distant past and the far-flung future.

Together with choreographer Max Gershon (Tate Modern, Paris Fashion Week), they explore the possibilities of the new theatrical language of FASHIONxOPERA.

ROBE is produced by UU Studios, the production company set up by Alastair White and Gemma A. Williams to explore interdisciplinary possibilities in opera and fashion.