Centenary revival for opera of love & betrayal in WW1 France

Posted on centenarynews.com on 01 September 2018
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An opera based on the true story of a group of British soldiers sheltered by French villagers in the First World War is being revived for a Centenary production in October 2018.

A Foreign Field, performed by the Opera in a Box company, is a drama of survival, romance and betrayal, following the fate of the men and those who protected them for more than 18 months.

Four soldiers - Robert Digby, Thomas Donohoe, David Martin and William Thorpe - were cut off from their units by the rapid German advance of August 1914.

Finding refuge in the Aisne village of Villeret, near St Quentin, they survived behind the lines until being given away in May 1916. Condemned to death by the German authorities, the men were executed by firing squad. 

Robert Digby, Thomas Donohoe, David Martin and William Thorpe are commemorated on this plaque in Villeret (Photo: Centenary News)

The British author, Ben Macintyre, pieced together their story for his book A Foreign Field, published in 2001.

Later, the Bristol-based composer, Eric Wetherell, made it the subject of his first opera in 2010, and as the WW1 Centenary draws to a close, this will now be performed again by the Opera in a Box touring company at the Redgrave Theatre, Bristol. 

The work centres on the relationship between Private Digby, and Claire, a villager’s daughter, and its fatal consequences.

Opera in a Box describes it as a portrait of the dramatic way the Great War 'deprived communities and ultimately brutalised individuals in the name of survival'. 

A Foreign Field is at the Redgrave Theatre, Clifton College, Bristol from October 10-13 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £15 (£5 students). For booking see Opera in a BoxThe production, supported with Arts Council England National Lottery funding, is being used as an opportunity to share WW1 history with schools. 

Images courtesy of Opera in a Box & Centenary News (plaque)

Posted by: CN Editorial Team