BBC National Orchestra of Wales Explores Intriguing Story with Holt World Premiere

Photograph by Kiran Ridley

Photograph by Kiran Ridley

BBC National Orchestra of Wales explores the unsettling story of a woman’s obsession with her surroundings, with the world premiere of a commission by Simon Holt, the Orchestra’s Composer-in-Association.

The work by Holt, The Yellow Wallpaper, is a dramatic piece for soprano and orchestra. The libretto, by David Harsent, is based on the story by the early feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gillman, where a woman is locked in a room by her husband as a rest cure for post-natal depression. After a summer spent in the room, the young woman begins to imagine that there are beings within the room’s walls.

The work will receive its premiere on Tuesday 29 October, 7.30pm, at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay – and will feature British soprano Elizabeth Atherton as the soloist. The premiere of this work was originally scheduled to take place in April 2012, but was postponed, and subsequently rescheduled as part of this concert.

Elizabeth Atherton and the Orchestra will be joined by six female voices from the BBC Singers, who will be placed amongst the orchestral musicians on stage. The yellow wallpaper in the title will be referred to not just in the libretto, but also by the percussion players, who will be using decorator’s lining paper and twigs as part of the atmospheric sound effects.

Simon Holt described his inspiration behind the work: “I’ve known about Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novella since 1981… It’s certainly haunted me ever since that first reading. When the Orchestra invited me to write the last piece for my Composer-in-Association position, I felt that this was finally the time to deal with it.

“The way the story is told is utterly uncompromising and, considering when it was written, the courage of it is extraordinary…I wanted to try and make the audience feel as if they might be in the room with the protagonist and for them to have an insight into what she’s going through.”

Returning to conduct the work is the Orchestra’s former Principal Conductor, Thierry Fischer. The concert will also feature two poignant 1930’s masterpieces: Berg’s romantic Violin Concerto (“To the memory of an Angel”), performed by soloist Baiba Skride; and Franz Schmidt’s Bruckner-influenced Symphony No 4, subtitled “A requiem for my daughter”.

Tickets for the concert at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay are priced at £8-£10 (discounts available) and are available from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’ Audience Line, by calling 0800 052 1812.

Alternatively, tickets can be booked through the Wales Millennium Centre box office, by calling 02920 636464 or visiting Please note that booking online incurs a fee of £1 per ticket; booking by phone, post or in person with a payment card incurs a fee of £1.50 per ticket.

For more information about the Orchestra, visit their website at


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