Harriet - Vote for the FEDORA PRIZE

VOTE FOR "HARRIET", our newest production in creation, on the FEDORA PLATFORM online voting form

"Harriet" or "Coded Messages: Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman" is on the shortlist for the FEDORA GENERALI PRIZE FOR OPERA 2018.

Out of 50 International productions, "Harriet" is at the selected 16 on the shortlist for further nomination and support by the FEDORA Platform. The last 4 will receive a crowdfunding program and can win the FEDORA PRIZE.

About "Harriet":

Componist: Hilda Paredes
Tekst: Lex Bohlmeijer - Mayra Santos-Febres
Dirigent: Manoj Kamps
Regisseur: Jean Lacornerie
Vormgeving & scenografie: Miwa Matreyek
Kostuums: Mieke Vandensande
Zang: Claron McFadden & Naomi Beeldens
Ensemble: HERMESensemble
Viool: Wibert Aerts
Gitaar: Nico Couck
Percussie: Gaetan La Mela
Elektronica: CIRM Experimentalstudio
Lichtontwerp: Peter Quasters

What is special about the composition  of the artistic team: 1. Different nationalities (British / Mexican, Dutch, French, American, Belgian, Canadian, Scri Lankan, Puerto Rican) 2. Different levels of experiences – a very nice mix of established and emerging artists: Established artists: Hilda Paredes / Lex Bohlmeijer / Jean Lacornerie / Claron McFadden, Emerging artists: Miwa Matreyek / Mieke Vandensande / Manoj Kamps/ Noami Beeldens  3.Different disciplines

Project description of HARRIET : The soprano Claron McFadden will sing the title role on Hilda Paredes' music-theatre portrait of the Afro-American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman (c. 1822-1913). As a young woman, Harriet was able to escape her life as a slave via the secret routes of the renowned ‘Underground Railroad’. Putting her own life in danger, she returned many times to free hundreds of others. She fought in the American Civil War and contributed to the abolition of slavery. But this by no means signalled the end of the struggle for freedom. In the libretto (based on poems by Mayra Santos-Febres & dialogues by Lex Bohlmeijer). Harriet (sung by McFadden) tells her life story to her young protégé Alice (Naomi Beeldens). She talks about the violent injury to her head suffered when she was young. About the religious visions that resulted from it and which showed her the way out. About spirituals with secret, coded instructions for her escape. About her many rescue missions; she never lost a single passenger on the Underground Railroad. About the moment she first crossed the frontier between slavery and freedom. About her decision to return immediately to save her family. The music is scored for violin, guitar, percussion and electronics created at CIRM and it will be performed by Hermes Ensemble.

Artistic Quality:  

Firmly established as one of the leading Mexican composers of today, HILDA PAREDES’s music is now performed widely around the world. Trained in the UK by a.o. Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle, Paredes has been recipient of important awards in Great Britain, the USA, and Mexico, including the Holst Foundation award for composers in the UK, the Sistema Nacional de Creadores Fellowship, the Rockefeller, Fund for Culture Mexico/USA award, and recently the prestigious J.S. Guggenheim Fellowship. 

The American soprano CLARON McFADDEN has proven herself to be one of the most versatile singers of her generation. Nominated for a Grammy Award and laureate of the prestigious Amsterdam Prize for the Arts, her collabo.rating partners include Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Frans Brüggen, Alain Platel and the Arditti Quartet. She performed all over the world, including the title role of Cavalli’s La Didone at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan

Dutch librettist LEX BOHLMEIJER studied literature and dramaturgy at the prestigious Leiden University. He wrote texts for renowned theatre companies like Johan Simons’s Theatergroep Hollandia and Theater Bonheur. He is also a presenter for the Dutch national classical radio. As a documentary maker and interviewer, he is specialized in current racism and diversity debates.

French director JEAN LACORNERIE started his very productive career at the Théâtre National de Strasbourg. He is known for exploring various forms of musical theater with the works of Michael Nyman, Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill, and Bertolt Brecht. Since 2010 he is at the head of a music-theatre project at the Théâtre de la Croix-Rousse (Lyon). Lacornerie has been the guest at several music festivals around the world: the Festival Romaeuropa, the Spoleto Festival USA and the Festival d'Ambronay.


An important element in the life story of Harriet Tubman is a series of seizures she suffered, resulting from a violent head wound inflicted on her during her childhood in captivity. These seizures resulted into religious visions which gave Harriet the courage to escape and help others flee. These biographical accounts form a perfect starting point for a staging steeped in magical-realism.  Moreover, from a narrative point of view, the story will be told by the character of Harriet Tubman, in her old age, in a series of flashbacks of earlier episodes in her life. The theatrical space will therefore switch between present and past, real-life physical presence of the cast and virtual dreamlike states.

For this reason, the set design will be in the hands of multi-media artist and rising star Miwa Matreyek. Her work is described as blurring the lines between teal and unreal. Mastering a range of diverse techniques – video animation, mapping and shadow puppetry – real shapes and virtual images trade places. Coming from a background in animation by way of collage, Matreyek creates live, staged performances where she lets performers interact with her animations as a shadow silhouette, at the cross section of cinematic and theatrical, fantastical and tangible, illusionistic and physical. Her work exists in an otherworldly visual space that makes invisible worlds visible, often weaving surreal and poetic narratives. Her work exists both at the realm of the hand-made and tech.

Innovation: Harriet raises the very significant question of racial segregation, the struggle for freedom and the longing for equality. Tubman’s hopes and aspirations of more than 100 years ago are no less valid in this day and age. There is a strong sense of urgency to convey Harriet Tubmans story into the present. What can we interact with history, how can we move forward, how can we pass on knowledge to the next generations? This intergenerational dialogue lies at the heart of this project, and this mutual relationship between past, present and future will be thought throughout all the artistic disciplines that come into play: text, music and image. On each of those levels, the ambition is to create exiting and innovative combinations of different elements that will present the audience a sense of history and a sense of actuality at the same time. Here are some examples: Text: the storytelling will tell the story of the extraordinary life of Harriet Tubman. Music: a combination of historical spirituals and the contemporary musical idiom of composer Hilda Paredes. Spirituals play a very important part in Harriet Tubmans life story. Since tangible maps of escape routes via the Underground Railroad were too dangerous (getting caught with such a map would endanger the whole mission), secret directions were conveyed in the lyrics of spiritual songs. These spirituals, conveying coded messages, will naturally play a part in this production. Hilda Paredes will merge them into her own contemporary idiom. It’s a form of musical intertextuality that will link past and present. Image: the cutting edge work of multi-media artist Miwa Matreyek will also blend past and present, real-life performance and virtual dreamlike visions.


Operadagen Rotterdam (the Netherlands) is one of the leading European Festivals that promotes new forms of Opera and Music Theater. 

Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ (The Netherlands) is the most important stage in the Netherlands for contemporary music. They offer more than 250 concerts per season in a great variety of genres including classical and electronic music, world music and jazz. 

Théâtre Croix-Rousse Lyon (France) wants to present to their audience, a large variety of productions which makes it very interesting for Muziektheater Transparant to work with. 

HERMESensemble (Belgium) explores and crosses the limits of contemporary music.  

Festival Internacional Cervantino (Mexico) is the ideal context to receive in Guanajuato, Mexico, the main artists of the most varied disciplines of art.  

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK) is an annual, international festival of contemporary and new music, with a related Learning and Participation programme. 

Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg (LUX) coproduces with La Monnaie, Brussels, the Wooster Group, New York,  the Théâtre National de l'Opéra Comique, Paris and Muziektheater Transparant. In 2015 they coproduced the award winning production Private View of Muziektheater Transparant. 

Emerging Artists:              

Soprano NAOMI BEELDENS is a rapidly emerging versatile performer with a predilection for music theatre, contemporary music and all things experimental. She likes to seek for boundaries – between genres, disciplines, high & low culture - and is at all times on the look-out for invigorating musical experiences. After completing her degree in Modern Literature at the University of Antwerp, Naomi started her classical singing studies at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp with Anne Cambier. She graduated with great distinction with her production of Poulenc’s La Voix humaine.

MIWA MATREYEK is an animator, director, designer, and performer based in Los Angeles. She has been an internationally touring independent artist since 2010. She performs her interdisciplinary shadow performances all around the world, including animation/film festivals, theater/performance festivals, art museums, science museums, tech conferences, and universities. Miwa received her MFA for Experimental Animation and Integrated Media from CalArts in 2007. She is a recipient of the Princess Grace Award (2007), the Creative Capital Award (2013) and the Sherwood Award (2016).

MANOJ KAMPS is an orchestral/operatic/choral conductor, composer/arranger, continuo player and theatre maker who also enjoys writing, educating and giving talks. 

MIEKE VANDENSANDE is studying Visual Arts - Theatre Costume Design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. As an extend on her studies as costume designer, she’s always looking for projects that create challenges and inspiration for her own work. Productions that enhance her experience and her image of the professional field.  To be a helping hand behind the scenes as much as possible is an essential part in becoming a varied and experienced costume designer.



03 première: Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, Amsterdam NL

14 Mexico City, MX

16 Teatro Principal, Guanajuato, MX


09 November Music Den Bosch, NL 

20 Huddersfield, UK  


04 Théâtre croix-Rousse Lyon, FR  

APRIL 2019

28 deSingel, Antwerpen, BE

MAY 2019

21/27 Operadagen Rotterdam, NL