The Miller's Wife, a new opera by Mike Christie
Birth, death, incest, adultery and betrayal:
The Miller’s Wife tells the tale of an unusual family setup.
Miller Bill Marner is forced into exile with his newborn son,
returning to his village 20 years later,
when a devastating family secret threatens his life.
A compelling traditional opera sung in English with echoes of Puccini.
Set in the beautiful surroundings of north-east Essex, The Miller’s Wife is an enticing new opera that weaves its way through every human emotion. Sung in English, it is a traditional opera with memorable melodies and potent arias enhanced by warm romantic orchestration that has echoes of Puccini with a modern twist.
Bill Marner the miller has always wanted a child of his own but his wife Winnie is too infirm to bear children. So, he decides to have a child with her carer Maude, who is also his mistress. Forced to flee from the village, Bill and his son William do not return for nearly twenty years. But when they do, Bill wants to take his own life when he discovers that William is not his son after all. So, will a secret that has been kept for nearly twenty years save William's plans to marry Maude’s daughter Jessie and ultimately Bill's life?
The Miller’s Wife deals with birth, death and marriage, incest, adultery, disloyalty and betrayal. There is also trust, compassion, love and a bit of humour - all fuelled by the miller’s desire to have a child.
Mike's great-great-great grandfather (far left in this photograph) is the inspiration for the miller Bill Marner in his opera, and the lady to his right the inspiration for Maude, the miller's wife's carer.
When the composer Mike Christie was researching his family tree, he discovered ancestors on his mother's side who were millers in Little Bentley and Great Bentley in Essex. One in particular was his great-great-great grandfather who...
“contrived to run not only three pairs of millstones, a bakehouse and a modest land holding, but also a wife and a mistress.”
Farries, Kenneth G. (1985), Essex Windmills, Millers and Millwrights, 37
In this photograph, Mike's ancestor is the man on the far left with the Mill House behind him. This photo and quote inspired Mike to write the plot for the opera, which became The Miller's Wife. In Mike's ancestry the miller's mistress became his wife's carer due to her being "very weak in mind and body" and subsequently the bearer of his children for the same reason. This was the initial inspiration for the plot which Mike developed into the libretto and the music.
The Miller's Wife Reviews
PlaysToSee.com (Chris Bridges), 4 stars
“Soaring arias and such intense emotion. The opera was a broad, dramatic piece. The sheer power and talent of the vocal skills of the leads, coupled with the skilful score, left no doubt that this was a talented cast doing justice to an expertly written piece.”
Entertainment Focus (Pip Ellwood), 4 stars
"The Miller’s Wife is a fantastic triumph for Mike Christie. For a debut opera it’s packed with plenty of great arias, strong melodies, fantastic performances and story that will keep you guessing (and get you talking after the show). Judging by the reaction from the packed audience last night, and we hear of the previous two performances, it looks like The Miller’s Wife is destined for great things."
Planet Hugill (Robert Hugill)
“A mix worthy of Catherine Cookson...The plot has sufficient romance, drama, comedy, incest, adultery and melodrama in it. Christie can certainly write a tune, the opera is full of them. There were memorable moments. The comic scenes for the two aunts were a great delight, Christie charmed. Christie and Gould had assembled a very strong young cast, who delivered the score with confidence and elan. A considerable amount of effort went into this performance, from the cast and from Mike Christie...and Christie is to be complimented."
Jonathan Butcher, Artistic Director of Surrey Opera
"It's really wonderful and I don't think I have enjoyed an evening in the theatre so much for a very long time. The opera's hugely entertaining in an extremely unusual/special way! For some reason the press have missed it - which is a tragedy. It's opera with a twist - and you are allowed to laugh - and laugh - and laugh. There are some fabulous lines, marvellous characterisations, as well as the music being just delicious, more or less, from start to finish - By the way - spot the quotes.......... AND the singing is pretty damn good as well. Wait for Act 2! Fab pianist as well. So - get there at all costs. In years to come you will be able to say -' I was there you know '."
Alastair Macgeorge, Chairman of Hampstead Garden Opera
“I have enormous admiration for any composer who can persevere through all the months and years of toil needed to bring an opera to stage in the 21st century – a real labour of love, given that the strong plot is in a sense a family affair and that Mike Christie was involved in every aspect of the opera’s creation. The story is absorbing and the music easy on the ear and the composer couldn’t have wished for a stronger or more sympathetic cast. Well done, everyone!”