Singer and actor Anna Myatt set up Midland Music Theatre while studying on the Music Dance and Drama MA course at Birmingham University in 1988. Shortly afterwards she moved to York with Roger Marsh and together they expanded the group and created programmes which toured around the UK until 1994. In 1995 they set up the Black Hair Ensemble which became a Yorkshire Arts Ensemble in Residence and toured innovative programmes of new music for more than ten years.
Anna’s extraordinary stylistic range and ability to decipher and learn the most challenging scores, are a gift to composers of music theatre. Her powerful interpretation of Berio’s Sequenza III received the stamp of approval from Berio himself in 1993 when she performed it to him in Boston in front of a group of musicians including Louisa Castiglioni. That informal audition lead to her being called to sing Passante 3 in a semi-staged version of La Vera Storia at the Royal Festival Hall in London, conducted by the composer.
Anna sang Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire op 21 in a number of staged performances. She first studied the work with Linda Hirst at the Dartington Summer School in 1989. Shortly afterwards she performed the work from memory with The Swann Ensemble in York, costumed as the traditional Pierrot. At Linda Hirst’s suggestion, she was engaged to sing the work with the Clod Ensemble at Battersea Arts Centre, London, in a beautiful all-white staged version directed by Suzy Wilson. She also sang it in a production by the Bergamo Ensemble in London, and at the University of Canterbury.
In 1998, with Black Hair, she performed a new singable English translation of Pierrot Lunaire made by Roger Marsh, who also conducted. The production was directed by opera director Chris Newell (Modern Music Theatre Group) with a circle of wine glasses containing ‘night-lights’ surrounding the soloist, wearing a black leather jacket with blood red lining, perched on a specially constructed industrial looking high stool, which span. A ‘mag-torch’ hung directly above her which she sometimes sent swinging. At the rear of the stage a ‘glitter-curtain’ partially concealed the ensemble who sat facing backwards. The flautist and cellist sat on swivel stools so that, for their solos, they could swivel round to face the audience, highlighted through the curtain by tight spotlights. Anna’s performance was highly dramatic, and being in English and clearly foregrounded from the ensemble brought the full power of Giraud/Hartleben’s text to life. After the York premiere, Black Hair took the production to the Newcastle Playhouse and The Arc, Stockton-on-Tees.
Another constant feature of Anna’s programmes, including with Midland Music Theatre, has been her performances of songs by Hans Eisler and Kurt Weill, to which her ‘non-classical’ voice and excellent command of German, brings an authenticity and emotional power. Working with accompanists David Blake, Richard Burton, Brendan Renwick and Catherine Laws, her interpretations of these songs have delighted audiences around the UK, including a memorable show at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival in 199567. She sang Polly in Weill’s The Threepenny Opera in York and at Hay-on-Wye in a ‘pocket version’ performed by four actor/singers (Tim Montfort, Alison Murchie, Brendan Renwick, Anna Myatt).
Other frequently performed works include The Song of Abigail (Marsh), Recitations (Aperghis), Stripsody (Berberian), A Little Snow and Black Hair (Marsh), Dumb Show (Hoyland) and much more.
In 1995 she recorded a delightful rendition of the song Love’s Old Sweet Song (with Richard Burton piano) by J.J.Molloy, for the Naxos Audiobook production of James Joyce’s Ulysses (abridged). The recording was used by Naxos again in 2004 for the unabridged version. You can hear a snatch of this here if you go to Disc 20, track 6.