A Certain Sense of Order

a gentle, thoughtful, provocative and beautiful piece"

— Bill Bankes-Jones, Artistic Director of Tête à Tête

“A sign of the success of A Certain Sense of Order is the freshness and seriousness with which it musically and dramatically explores the radical performative potential of Sexton and her poetry, in addition to the active questions it leaves us with.

— Christian Coppa, 3:AM MAGAZINE


The Work

A Certain Sense of Order is a work for two female singers exploring the American poet Anne Sexton. Using the text of a single poem—“For John, Who Begs Me Not to Inquire Further”—the piece reflects on Sexton’s life and work, including her practice of recording and listening to tapes of her therapy sessions. While reciting excerpts of the poem, the singers perform activities reminiscent of a variety of practices from Sexton’s life: writing at a typewriter, recording speech, listening to tapes. Transitioning between media, the singers manifest and mingle roles from the home and therapy room. Rather than a literal or biographical representation of the poet or her work, the piece is better understood as a performed poetic interpretation.

Premiered August 2017 at Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival, London, UK
Featuring Rebecca Cuddy & Rosie Middleton with a paper given by Dr. Victoria Van Hyning (Oxford)

Poetry | Anne Sexton
Creation + Composition | Catherine Kontz
Creation + Direction | Sasha Amaya
Creation + Concept | Naomi Woo



April 25-26/19 - Luxembourg
October 27/18 - Cambridge
June 16/18 = Cambridge
May 2/18 - London
April 28/18 - Oxford
April 29/18 - Cambridge
August 10-11/17 - London

Reviews and Responses

Review: Christian Coppa, Chancing Repetition” in 3:AM Magazine

There is something unmistakable about a double take: that sudden claim of interest in an object initially clocked without much ado—a face peripherally scanned, maybe a voice overheard, one almost too familiar to be attended at first. The ordinary thing become peculiar, significant. An uncanny kind of recognition; an awkward one, tentative or unreliable, a misrecognition, even. Perhaps it was the face of someone you had hoped to see, or feared you might. In any case, we double take when we suspect something is worth a second look, however casual, patient, or risky. Voluntarily or not, we enquire further... Read more here.

Essay: G. Brooks, Something Worth Learning

In university, I harboured a deep disdain for a particular literature professor who posited that the writings of the Brontë sisters was somehow inadequate. In her telling, their work was diminished because, although romantic relationships are to varying degrees the subject of all of their novels, none of them—as far as we know—experienced requited romantic love. This struck me as inordinately stupid. I am quick to take issue with strictly biographical readings of literature, which are in my mind the least interesting and most limiting approaches to any text... Read more here.

The Artistic Process

This work emerged from an organic and collaborative process, in which we took Anne Sexton’s text as material to deconstruct, explore, and recompose. In one sense, the piece serves as an introduction of the poet to European audiences who might be less familiar with her work. More broadly, the piece opens up the text to questions of identity, and investigates the single, the dual, and the multiple within text, sound, and characters on stage. The dualist casting allows the two female performers to interact as mirrors, foils, and supports for one another.


The Creative Team

catherine kontz /// Catherine Kontz (b. 1976) is a Luxembourgish composer. She studied Composition with Roger Redgate at Goldsmiths College and, as part of her PhD, produced and directed her mime-opera MiE with sold-out performances in London in 2006. She has since worked extensively within the world of contemporary opera as well as writing for performers such as ensemble recherche, BBCSSO, Cathy Krier, and Juliet Fraser.

Catherine has been commissioned for new works by Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Philharmonie Luxembourg, the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) amongst others and she regularly features at the Tête-à-Tête opera festival. In 2013 she composed and directed her first full-length opera Neige for Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg to great acclaim.

tick tock focuses on sonic and choreographic performance to produce, interpret, and devise works of opera, dance, and physical theatre. the project is founded and directed by Sasha Amaya and Naomi Woo.

sasha amaya /// Sasha Amaya is a dancer, choreographic and installation artist, and director. Her work has shown in galleries, on video, and as chamber music and opera, and was reviewed by the New York Times as full of « paradox… charm and fun ». Recent work includes the collaborative creation and direction of a new opera A Certain Sense of Order, and performances at Somerset House (London), Tête à Tête (London), Jesus and Clare Colleges (Cambridge), Performance Philosophy (Prague), Tanzfabrik (Berlin), Uferstudios (Berlin), Lake Studios (Berlin), and aceartinc. gallery (Winnipeg). Sasha studied dance in Canada and Germany, and Architecture and Urban Studies at the University of Cambridge.

naomi woo /// Canadian-born Naomi Woo is a pianist, conductor, and musicologist with a particular interest in contemporary music. In 2017-2018, highlights include conducting Holst’s Savitri (ADC Theatre), performing Carnival of the Animals alongside pianist Tom Poster (West Road Concert Hall), and holding the Conducting Scholar position at Cambridge University. Her 2011 debut in Carnegie Hall was praised as an “elegant performance” in the New York Times. Currently pursuing a PhD as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, Naomi holds degrees in mathematics & philosophy, piano performance, and musicology. She is currently supported by the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund, and has received generous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Help Musicians UK, the BC Arts Council, and the Leon and Thea Koerner Foundation.


A Certain Sense of Order was developed as part of a lab in March 2017, supported by Second Movement, Rough for Opera, Arts Council England, and Tête à Tête. The work premiered at Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival in August 2017.