OperaUpClose Reveals Their New Programme of Reinventions

Learn more about the upcoming programming here!

By: Jun. 20, 2024
OperaUpClose Reveals Their New Programme of Reinventions
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OperaUpClose has announced its new programme of reinventions; a series of one-act operas by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Giacomo Puccini and Richard Strauss reimagined for the modern world. All three will feature newly commissioned chamber orchestrations and English libretti by some of the UK’s most exciting writers and composers, and will tour the UK from 2025 until 2027 playing a range of venues from theatres to nightclubs. The series is part of the company’s continued aim to diversify the operatic landscape, and enrich an ecosystem for the whole sector with artistically excellent work.

Riders to the Sea will open at MAST Mayflower Studios in Southampton on 30 January 2025 before embarking on a nationwide tour in February 2025 to venues including The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Minerva Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre and Hull Truck Theatre. This one act tragedy written by JM Synge and set to music by much loved British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams follows a woman, her daughters and the men they rely on to live in an ancient fishing community, exploring universal themes of family, duty, grief and loss.  Building on elements of the company's reworking of The Flying Dutchman in 2023, the orchestra will again be intrinsic players in the narrative breaking down traditional barriers between pit, stage and audience.

The production will feature a specially commissioned choral Prologue ‘The Last Bit of Moon’, with a poetic libretto co-written by ArtfulScribe’s Community Sirens Collective led by cross-disciplinary artist Antosh Wojzik, set to music by Michael Betteridge. The chorus is currently being recorded by a network of male and low-voice community choirs from across the UK including the award winning LGBTQ+ open access choir The Sunday Boys, and will be central to a sound and visual language for the production that combines live performance with projection and recorded sound. In collaboration with Southampton based independent film charity CityEye, ‘The Last Bit of the Moon’ will also be presented as a stand alone film previewed ahead of Riders to the Sea at Southampton Film Week 2024. Vaughan Williams’ epic score has been reworked for chamber ensemble by Michael Betteridge in a compelling musical dialogue between the contemporary and the established. Riders to the Sea is presented by OperaUpClose in association with MAST Mayflower Studios.

A contemporary take on Puccini’s comic opera Gianni Schicchi or Where There’s a Will tours to mid-scale spaces in 2026. Two of the country’s rising stars – performer, director, producer and writer Hannah Kumari (ENG-ER-LAND, Arcola Theatre) and composer Vahan Salorian (Re-Emergence, Hackney Empire) – will transport the timeless story of avarice and family conflict  to an unnamed seaside town in present day UK . Reorchestrated for a mixed cast of singers and actor musicians, and featuring the much-adored soprano aria ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’, this interpretation will take a darkly comic look at  entitlement, class assumptions and attitudes towards our aging population against the backdrop of a second-home economy. 

A radical new version of  Richard Strauss’s Salome is in development to tour nightclubs and cabaret spaces in early 2027. Featuring the infamous ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, writer, performer and social activist Athena Stevens (Schism, Park Theatre) will explore the wild hedonism of Oscar Wilde’s original text in a new English libretto, exposing themes of gender identity and ableism. Never less than controversial, the play was seen as blasphemous and banned in the UK until 1931, whilst Strauss’ opera scandalised and thrilled in equal measure at its premiere in 1905. With a new chamber orchestration mixing acoustic and electronic sound, this re-working aims to bring the audience right to the centre of the tragedy and be as heady and provocative today as the original was for audiences of the time.  

Flora McIntosh said “We are bringing together brilliant contemporary writing with inherited repertoire to champion the power of opera as a musically excellent, intimate theatrical experience. We are so excited to be programming work with such extraordinary and diverse artists from across the sector.”

OperaUpClose is a national touring opera company with storytelling, partnership and innovation at its heart. Intimate in scale and mighty in impact. Since 2009 they have grown from their first, Olivier-Award winning, production in a 35-seat theatre above a pub; to the opera company with the widest geographical reach pre-pandemic; to the only full-time resident opera company in the South-West working with multi-artform collaborators from our home at the dynamic cultural hub MAST, Southampton. OperaUpClose extend the appeal, relevance and reach of the artform with cross-disciplinary and co- creative commissions performed alongside bold, re-interpretations of established material. They engage the most exciting, emerging creative talent to distil the essence of classic operas into new, contemporary chamber works with their own artistic integrity and excellence, bringing the new and the established together in visceral, up close theatrical productions.


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