The composer, Iain Bell, and librettists, Emma Jenkins and David Antrobus, of the WNO’s ground-breaking new opera introduce and discuss their adaptation of David Jones’ classic First World War poem. Together they explore the life of David Jones and his First World War epic ‘In Parenthesis’ with poet Owen Sheers in a discussion chaired by WNO’s Sophie Rashbrook.
In Parenthesis is a work of epic poetry by Anglo-Welsh artist, poet and ‘maker of things’ David Jones. It was published in 1937 and concerns Jones’ experiences as an infantryman during World War I, specifically the period between December 1915 and July 1916 that culminated in the Battle of Mametz Wood, a crucial engagement during the early stages of the Somme Campaign. Over a seven day period between the 5 – 12 July this searing assault led to over 4,000 casualties from the newly-formed 38th ‘Welsh’ Division. So traumatic was the experience for Jones that it was to be many years before he found himself able to write about it. It began as a series of drawings but gradually blossomed and evolved to become the extraordinary work that we know today. Some of the foremost writers of the time including W.B Yeats, T.S Eliot and W.H Auden regarded it as a masterpiece and a work of genius. Indeed Auden asserts that Jones did ‘for the British and the Germans what Homer did for the Greeks and the Trojans.’