Ground rules set for Brexit culture deal

Ground rules set for Brexit culture deal

The government’s Brexit white paper has set out a basis to ensure artists’ mobility between the UK and Europe after Brexit.

Battersea Arts Centre heralds reopening with Trump protest

Battersea Arts Centre heralds reopening with Trump protest

Three years since Battersea Arts Centre’s great hall burnt down, it is pre-empting it autumn opening today with a defiant message for Donald Trump https://www.bac.org.uk.

TAITMAIL   What, me worry, when Mr Wright has come along?

TAITMAIL What, me worry, when Mr Wright has come along?

Who is Jeremy Wright, the headlines on Tuesday were asking.  For me, he bears an unnerving likeness to Mad Magazine’sAlfred E Neuman (a kind of 1960s Forrest Gump who only ever said “What, me worry?”), but he was the Attorney General and is now the seventh Secretary State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport since 2010.

Dulwich to get a Colour Palace

Dulwich to get a Colour Palace

Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London is to get a “Colour Palace” for its gardens next summer.

Shakespeare Schools wins Japanese arts prize

Shakespeare Schools wins Japanese arts prize

The Shakespeare Schools Foundation has won £33,000 in the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale 2018 awards.

Matthew Bourne’s tours to go green

Matthew Bourne’s tours to go green

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures dance company is to collaborate with environmental sustainability agency Julie’s Bicycle to creative a creative green certificate for touring.

Arts centre plan for Reading Gaol

Arts centre plan for Reading Gaol

Councillors in Reading are backing a plan to turn the town’s famous jail into an arts centre.

New culture secretary appointed

New culture secretary appointed

Kenilworth MP and former Attorney General Jeremy Wright MP is the latest Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport .

New 'Netflix for the arts' to launch

A company has announced plans to to set up a vesrion of Netflix for the arts.

Creative Europe impact on UK bigger than €74m spend

Creative Europe impact on UK bigger than €74m spend

Two reports out today show that since 2014 the European art development fund, Creative Europe, has spent €74m on 334 UK-based organisations and companies and helped distribute 145 British films in other European countries, but the impact has been worth far more.

Historic London swings

Historic London swings

London’s landmarks have been put to music in the latest phase of the Musicity project, devised to bring a new dimension to familiar architecture.

Boom in book adaptation earnings

Boom in book adaptation earnings

The value to the economy of film, television and theatre adaptations of books is soaring, according to a new report from the Publishers Association – thanks to our copyright laws.

National gets rare Gentileschi self-portrait

National gets rare Gentileschi self-portrait

A self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi, who broke the glass ceiling for female artists in 17thcentury Florence, has been acquired by the National Gallery for £3.6m.

Horniman Museum goes greener

Horniman Museum goes greener

The Horniman Museum in South London has ditched its café’s plastic utensils for plant-based coffee cups to sandwich wrappers in an effort to go greener https://www.horniman.ac.uk.

Gainsborough’s home to be national centre

Gainsborough’s home to be national centre

Thomas Gainsborough’s childhood home in Sudbury, Suffolk, is to become a national centre for celebrating the 18thcentury painter’s work, with the Heritage Lottery Fund awarding the scheme £4.5m.

Tate St Ives ‘carved out of rock’ is Museum of the Year

Tate St Ives ‘carved out of rock’ is Museum of the Year

Tate St Ives is the 2018 Art Fund Museum of the Year, winning the £100,000 prize, the richest in the world.

Opera Rara goes global with Warner

Opera Rara goes global with Warner

Opera Rara, the company that finds, restores, presents and records lost operatic masterpieces, has today announced a deal with Warner Classics that will give its recordings worldwide distribution.

MU to probe music education

MU to probe music education

The Musicians’ Union has commissioned new research into music education in the UK.

OPERA Making progress

A new opera company is a collaboration of practitioners and friends determined to pare away the mystique and present the art for its audiences. Simon Tait met OperaGlass Works

I t’s not unheard of for leading cultural practitioners to take their artform by the scruff of the neck and shake it into a modern context – in lm Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D W Griffith did it almost a century ago to create United Artists so that actors and directors could have more control of what they did rather than working to the diktats of a larger corporation – but it’s rare. More often groups of actors/ singers/writers/dancers/musicians will gather in a pub, complain about their lot, vow to change, and in the cold light of day prefer to stick with job security.

OperaGlass Works, however, is very likely to change the way we appreciate opera for ever, with a philosophy that might well adapt to theatre and other performance. And it has been created not by a group of callow hopefuls, but a team of senior practitioners in the midst of successful careers. OperaGlass Works’ first production is Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, opening at Wilton’s Music Hall next month.

The team is taking no pay for its work, and has been compiling its plans over time, with the company formed a year ago. There are no offices. They meet in coffee bars around Lon- don and in their homes. And the key, they say, is that they are all friends who have worked together before, and who each brings their own set of contacts and skills. Between them they have raised every penny of the £100,000 it is costing to produce the opera.

Selina Cadell is familiar to television viewers, most recently in Doc Martin with Martin Clunes in which she plays Mrs Tishell, but less well known is her role as head of drama at the National Opera Studio, as a coach at the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, and a director of both opera and drama.


 

Eliza Thompson is a composer, music director and producer, who works in lm, television and theatre, and has often worked with Cadell as co-producer.

Laurence Cummings, harpsichordist, conductor and early music specialist, is the music director of the London Handel Orchestra.

The lead character of Tom Rakewell will be taken by the young tenor Robert Murray who has sung with every major opera company in the country.

The set is designed by Tom Piper who is perhaps the most sought-after set designer in the country, and is the former associate designer with the RSC who helped create its new museum. Costumes are by Rosalind Ebbutt who created the costumes for the cur- rent ITV blockbuster Victoria.

OperaGlass Works is what it suggests: a transparent organisation that gets to the “bare bones” – Thompson’s phrase – of the art form without dispensing with the magic. We meet in a coffee house in Haverstock Hill near the private house being lent by a patron for a fundraising concert performance of the opera for which they are preparing.

We have wonderful opera in Britain now, but the way it is produced with lavish sets and costumes adding noughts to the ticket prices leads to the adjective “elitist”, Cadell says. It is almost as if the audience is being al- lowed to witness performances rather than being performed to.

“Great opera houses have historical productions that have gone on for many, many years, which I think actually constrains casts, they’re not really part of collaborative process” she says.

“They y in and do two days’ rehearsal, they don’t have a particular bond with the company, they don’t necessarily want to pick up the hand- kerchief where so-and-so picked it up before, but they don’t really have the time to find their own way through. That’s one element, having worked in opera for 20 years, that needs changing. Singers need to be more empowered to discover their own projects and make them happen.”

Another problem that needs to be addressed is that word “elitism” she says. “It’s ridiculous because music speaks to something that has nothing to do with the brain and needs to be free of those constraints. Along with elitism comes money, so we also feel that what we want to do is bring exquisite opera to small spaces at lower prices to a new audience. There are lots of opera companies around and they are good, but we’re talking about bringing quite famous people, a rather stellar cast”.

Thompson adds that there is another way of putting on opera. “There’s quite a lot of pub opera and country house opera, but this is something different again, perhaps more in the strain of theatre productions, smaller scale, very well done, and the key is that it is a collaborative exercise”.

Stravinsky’s 1951 opera The Rake’s Progress is the composer’s attempt to bring the 18th century into the 20th, with a libretto by W H Auden and Chester Kallman, and based on Hogarth’s series of paintings now in the Sir John Soane’s Museum.

The company chose Wilton’s for its intimate nature, and because Thompson and Cadell had collabo- rated on Congreve’s The Way of the World there two years ago – they considered a Shoreditch church, but would have had to provide the front-of-house, an extra expense. The 19-piece orchestra is the young play- ers of the Southbank Sinfonia whom Cummings will conduct from the harpsichord in 18th century style, playing on-stage. Ebbutt’s costumes are not period, certainly not elaborate, but are elegantly suggestive of the early 18th century; Piper’s set is spare but subtly descriptive. The production will run for six nights, and ticket prices will range from £15 to £23.

The company’s approach is to strip the opera of its mystique to make it more tangible for the audience, as Murray, who plays opposite the Royal Opera House’s newest star soprano, Susanna Hurrell, explains. He was introduced to 18th century music by Selina Cadell at the National Opera Studio, and has since made it a speciality. But the modern script has been a challenge.

“It’s slightly off centre” he says “but it seems to suit everything we’re trying to do. You need to really engage with the words so you can get it over to the audience. A com- mon misconception is that you need to put a modern spin on an opera to give it a contemporary feel, but as we’ve delved into exactly what was written and committed to it – it’s amazing how many stage directions there are to do with engaging with the audience – we’ve found the way into the work without updating it. That’s very important, and it can be tricky.”

Eliza Thompson underlines the point. “There’s a slight sense in conventional opera of the Emperor’s New Clothes, adding new layers to something that really doesn’t need them. What might be new is that we’re not doing anything to it. I hope we can engage with the whole score and embrace it – have these doors to the work open rather than closed, and what that enables is on-going choice, a live feeling.”

Rake’s Progress is at Wilton’s November 17-25, go to www.wiltons.org.uk/ whatson/362-the-rake-s-progress

 

 

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