Updated: Tuesday, 7th April 2020 @ 8:10am

Interview: Anya17 co-founder Ben Kaye on tackling sex trafficking with opera

Interview: Anya17 co-founder Ben Kaye on tackling sex trafficking with opera

By Francine Ponticelli

An opera tackling the subject sex trafficking will be performed in Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music next week.

MM talks to the show’s co-founder, Ben Kaye, on his decision to touch upon such a sensitive subject.

Librettist and writer Ben Kaye, has helped to create many productions with equally complex subject matter as his current work, Anya17.   

Anya17 is an opera that is based on the story of a young girl, Anya, who is illegally transported over to the UK from Eastern Europe as a sex slave.

Broaching the reasons for devoting the plot of Anya17 to sex slavery, Ben explained: “I am dedicated to ethical causes.  I want to write about important subjects and thought I could use this opera as a chance to explore this particular subject.”

While Ben spent a year researching and writing for another play the topic of sex trafficking was constantly appearing.

“I was utterly horrified. I knew nothing about this at all and thought I should shine a light on it,” said Ben, who mentioned that Anya17 is the first opera that has tackled such a topic.

Ben and his colleagues, British composer Adam Gorb and director Caroline Clegg, have designed the opera in a way that ensures the heavy subject matter will be accessible to the public.     

“We’re talking about something very serious,” said Ben. “You don’t raise a subject by hitting people over the head with it. You create debate and awareness.”

Discussing the possible ranges in audience responses to the show, Ben openly admitted: “I want the audience to either love it or hate it and I don’t care which. I want people to connect with it. What I don’t want is apathy.”

Ben admitted that he felt that when people come across large numbers, with regards to mass tragedies, or gross exploitation, the over-whelming figures just wash over them, thus creating no real effect at all, but explained: “Anya17 is a story which is very human and personal. The lead character could be somebody’s sister or daughter.”    

The opera is expected to be harrowing and touching from all those who are involved in creating it, as Ben explained: “We have a long and complex story-line with an hour to perform it. The music will mirror dramatic content, as it is slightly on the poetic side.

Staying true to the dramatic plot and the realities of the character’s situation, Ben said: “Some of the scenes are beautiful and some are deeply disturbing.”

The opera is written in plain English and transmits actual conversations between the characters, which will work to evoke clarity and will make the story far more accessible to the audience.

“As someone who has written them I want every word to be heard,” said Ben.

This is not Ben’s first time at covering a sensitive subject as this. As he works again with the British Composer Award winner Adam Gorb, Ben attempts to push the creative boundaries in order to give the tale justice, as he explained: “When I first started writing I was terribly nervous. However, now, I wouldn’t say I’ve become blasé about it, but art has a purpose for more than just beauty.” 

Anya17 is tipped to be a compelling and thought provoking opera with a unique approach to tackling the very real and stark realties of sex-trafficking in the UK.

Anya17 will be on at the Royal Northern College of Music on Friday 9 March. For ticket details visit http://www.rncm.ac.uk/

For further information on Anya17 and those involved, see link www.anya17.co.uk