Birmingham Contemporary Music Group to Present World Premiere of ‘Sonata for Broken Fingers’

By David Salazar

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group is set to present “Sonata for Broken Fingers.”

The new opera by composer Joe Cutler and librettist Max Hoehn will have its world premiere on July 14 at CBSO Centre in Birmingham. The opera stars Claire Booth, Stephen Richardson, Lucy Schaufer, and Christopher Lemmings. Sian Edwards conducts the production.

The work is inspired by Maria Yudina’s biography and by first-hand accounts of politicized life under Stalinism.

“A well-known urban myth tells of how, one evening, Stalin made a surprise phone call to Radio Moscow demanding the urgent delivery of a record: a Mozart piano concerto played by Maria Yudina,” says the official synopsis of the work. “Unfortunately, radio companies at this time did not always preserve their broadcasts for a future release or even for their own archive. But rather than say ‘no’ to Stalin, Radio Moscow gathered together Yudina and their orchestra in the middle of the night and made the recording from scratch, ready to be delivered to the Kremlin the following morning. In the version of the myth as told by Shostakovich, it was this recording that was found on Stalin’s gramophone player when the dictator had his fatal stroke.”

“I am so delighted that our new opera, ‘Sonata for Broken Fingers,’ will be brought to life by Sian Edwards alongside a remarkable cast of singers, pianist Xenia Pestova and BCMG,” said Cutler per an official press statement. “As my first opera, this piece has taken me to places I couldn’t possibly have imagined creatively. Max has written a libretto that is both dark, funny and moving; a story that resonates strongly in today’s unpredictable and challenging times.”

The opera was commissioned by Opera21 and co-produced in partnership with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Birmingham Record Company.