By Kevin Young
Entertainment reporter, BBC News
It is not often that traditional Caribbean rhythms can be heard coming from London's Royal Opera House.
Originally Ms Le Gendre trained in Paris as a classical guitarist
But Bird of Night, the first full-length opera from Dominique Le Gendre, intertwines the composer's background in classical music with the sounds she remembers from her native Trinidad.
The piece is the first composition by a woman to be commissioned by the Royal Opera.
It has been developed from a short opera first performed in 2003 at the famous venue in Covent Garden.
"Inevitably, all of the music I grew up with has always been a huge influence on my rhythmic understanding of how a melody can flow," Ms Le Gendre says.
"There's a huge world, a huge sound bank of music which inhabits me and is inevitably always present."
'Bath of sound'
Aspects of the score - which provides the soundtrack to the voyage of discovery of main character Apolline - were based on the "hypnotic" sound of traditional Caribbean carnivals, she adds.
"People actually stand in the middle of these steel band orchestras with 50 to 100 players and you push them through the streets. Basically you're in a bath of sound.
"You see the hypnotic effect it has on people when they begin to dance, from sunrise to sunset without stopping.
"It's a very, very powerful drug and that was the effect I wanted to create in that music," says Ms Le Gendre.
Betsabee Haas stars in the opera's lead role, as 15-year-old Apolline
The two-act opera features soprano Betsabee Haas as Apolline, with soprano Jacqueline Miura, baritone Paul Whelan, mezzo-soprano Andrea Baker and tenor Richard Coxon also in leading roles.
Apolline is a 15-year-old who is desperate to copy the actions of her shamanistic godmother by flying like a bird.
During her journey into womanhood, she encounters the supernatural and a struggle between good and evil.
"It fully expresses the way Caribbean people talk to each other and have conversations," explains Ms Le Gendre.
"What to an outside ear might appear as heightened emotions or heightened voices - that's actually very true of us as a people.
"At the same time, things switch. A mood can turn in an instant. There's this constant flow of sadness into joy, in and out of each other.
"Playing with the orchestra and the voices just gave me a big playground to try to express that," she adds.
The composer says the cast members have embodied her characters "even beyond the vision" she had when she wrote the piece.
"They give a dimension that I can't imagine. They bring their own richness to it, and that adds other dimensions, which for me are very important.
"The entire process of rehearsing has been an incredible process of discovery for the cast members and the singers, embracing, taking on these roles."
She continues: "They are also singing in a language which is not usual for them, where there's a lot of emphasis on rhythm, but not as we would imagine - with constant syncopation.
"It is still incredibly lyrical. It's just that the accents are placed differently than they would be in music that comes from Europe, America or somewhere else."
There are seven performances of the piece at the Royal Opera House
Using a chamber orchestra brought a new dimension to the opera, Ms Le Gendre says.
"It allows all of the orchestra 'colours' that are there in this ensemble to act as soloists, to have a real presence that's actually important within this story.
"By using the instruments as soloists and to play also with the voices, there's this constant interplay between the orchestra and the voices."
And Bird of Night is intended as the first in a series, she adds.
"I always wrote it with the intention of continuing the story further on, but it was very important to establish the Caribbean world, so that when Apolline leaves, she leaves with a very strong sense of who she is, and that identity has already been established musically."
Bird of Night is being performed at the Royal Opera House in London from 19 to 28 October.