OperaUpClose Presents ULLA'S ODYSSEY at Greenwich Theatre
Ticket holders at the children's opera will be invited to attend workshops being held on the day to discuss opera with the cast and members of the company, OperaUpClose, who will present two shows on the day.
"A lot of our work is about breaking down the barriers," said 30-year-old producer Dominic Haddock. "There are logistical barriers like price and geography, and there are only two full-time opera companies in this country and they are both in London.
"There's also the perception that 'I won't understand it and that it's long and it's boring'. Those are the kinds of barriers we want to overcome. All of our productions are in English and when we produce a traditional opera we always call it a new version, rather than a translation."
Ulla's Odyssey is an adaptation of Homer's Odyssey by New Zealand composer Anthony Young and Canadian librettist Leanna Brodie. "It's the story of a 14-year-old girl sailing around the world single-handedly, which has been done in recent years by the amazing young Dutch girl, Laura Dekker," said Dominic.
"Ulla is trying to do this so it makes for a really strong, young female heroine in the opera, which has a cast of five. She is accompanied only by her cat, which is a puppet, and she has to overcome the Cycop, a one-eyed robotic customs official.
"The story for seven to 11-year-olds is very modern. There are strong environmental references as Ulla starts by emptying water bottles and trash into the ocean, and the story also looks closely at issues of parental support becoming parental pressure."
The children's opera won OperaUpClose's annual new writing competition to find and develop contemporary opera. "We had wanted for a long time to produce an opera for families and children and this was the perfect vehicle," said Dominic.
"We use writers, poets and playwrights to re-imagine opera and make sure the words are as important as the music. Where I think it's gone wrong in the last few hundred years is making the music more important and not really caring what they're saying or how they are acting it. We think we need to redress that balance.
"Ulla is part of our participation and education programme and our aim over the next 5 to 10 years is to keep that going. We want people to go to opera as they go now to the theatre or even the cinema. It is a revolution, as The Sunday Times said in 2009, and that's something we like to repeat."
The company contacted 40 to 50 theatres across the UK as part of spreading the word. "We'd known about Greenwich Theatre for ever and think the programme they put together and what they produce is fantastic," said Dominic, who trained as a theatre producer but was won over to opera after seeing OperaUpClose's first production.
"We don't want to go into any old venue. We want to go where we know that our work fits and what that venue stands for. I think our work will be attractive to Greenwich's existing audience and that together we will bring a new audience too. To me, opera is total theatre, the pinnacle."
James Haddrell, Greenwich Theatre's artistic and executive director, said: "We're constantly striving to stretch the boundaries in the work we produce and present for children and families, and to spread the age appeal of the shows on offer.
"April is a huge month for us in our family programming and Ulla's Odyssey is one of the shows I am most proud of. I've known about the company for some time and I think it's an amazing introduction to opera for children, especially as opera is often seen as an exclusive and expensive art form."
Ulla's Odyssey Sun 30 April 2017 1pm & 6pm
In their fun, feisty, family-friendly Ulla's Odyssey, Olivier-Award winning OperaUpClose tell the story of fourteen-year-old Ulla as she attempts to become the youngest person to sail the world single-handedly in her trusty sailing boat 'The Homer', with only her cat Binnacle to keep her company.
Suitable for children aged 7+, families and any adult with a sense of fun and wonder.
This new opera is an enchanting nautical fantasy by New Zealand composer Anthony Young and Canadian librettist Leanna Brodie, directed by OperaUpClose's Associate Director, Valentina Ceschi (The Elixir of Love and Dido & Aeneas) and designed by Faye Bradley (Linbury Prize Finalist 2013). The production originally opened at Kings Place in London, 2015. Inspired by Homer's Odyssey and real life teenagers Lara Dekker and Jessica Watson, this show includes live music and puppetry, an inspirational heroine, playful references to classical literature and pop culture, and a strong environmental message.
For more details go to www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk or call the Box Office on 020 8858 4447.