Teesside University students have created a graphic novel to tell the story of After Winter, a Streetwise Opera production that was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The 60-page novel, which is available for download below, was produced by students from the university’s BA (Hons) Comics and Graphic Novels, led by senior lecturer Julian Lawrence.
After Winter, inspired by Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey), tells the story of a man who, after the sudden end of a romantic relationship, wanders through a frozen landscape barely clinging to his sanity and inviting death.
In Schubert’s story, based on the collection of poems Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey) by Wilhelm Müller, the wanderer finds a glimmer of hope when meeting a begging street musician.
In the Streetwise Opera re-telling, which used the English translation by Jeremy Sams and included six new songs composed by Errollyn Wallen CBE, the main character is embraced by the inhabitants of a village who convince him to not give up on life.
The new songs include lyrics by Hazel Gould and participants in Streetwise Opera’s singing and creative workshops at Middlesbrough Town Hall and Methodist Asylum Project (MAP).
The graphic novel was originally meant to be a resource for asylum seekers and refugees, many of whom did not have English as a first language, to help them engage with the production.
The novel has now been printed in a limited edition first-run and copies will be distributed to all who participated in the production, including Teesside University students and Streetwise Opera performers.
After Winter, with baritone Roderick Williams in the main role, was meant to be staged at Middlesbrough Town Hall and Ryedale Festival in July 2020.
As part of this project, Streetwise Opera performers recorded the Schubert song “The Linden Tree” during lockdown, with Williams, pianist Christopher Glynn, the Brodsky Quartet and Genesis Sixteen.
Julian Lawrence, Senior Lecturer in Comics & Graphic Novels, in the University’s School of Computing, Engineering and Digital Technologies, said:
“The students were inspired by the welcoming sense of community established by the performers. This inspiration informed the narrative of our graphic novel, which tells the story of a heartbroken outsider. The students’ empathy and warmth shines through in the art they created for this project.”
Jamie Sample, a performer from the Streetwise Opera group based in Middlesbrough Town Hall, said:
“It is great to see this story come to life in these pages. I love the mix of different styles of the illustrations, from Sunday morning comic strip to manga and Marvel/DC style. This graphic novel represents really well a man’s inner journey as he comes to terms with his broken heart.”
Marigold Hughes, Head of Programme at Streetwise Opera, said:
“What started its life as a learning resource has become a precious legacy of the production that never was. In the same way as we have turned to different, mainly online, platforms to continue the work of Streetwise Opera, the spirit of the production is continued in these pages.”