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Mahogany Opera Group Announces New Focus From 2018

Monday 26 June 2017

MAHOGANY OPERA GROUP ANNOUNCES NEW FOCUS FROM 2018 AND AN EXTENSION OF THEIR SNAPPY OPERAS PROGRAMME THAT WILL BRING OPERA TO UK SCHOOLS ON AN UNPRECEDENTED SCALE

Mahogany Opera Group today announced that from January 2018 it will focus on two areas of activity: MY Opera (Mahogany Youth Opera) and Various Stages (its Research & Development programme).

MY Opera (Mahogany Youth Opera) aims to give young people ownership of opera and encompasses all of the Company’s work for and with children. Characterised by the distinct way in which young people actively work alongside professionals, it builds on the Company’s recent successes, Brundibár and Snappy Operas. Mahogany will establish a MY Opera network of Music Education Hubs, arts venues, charities and schools both in the UK and internationally to create youth opera projects.

Various Stages is the Company’s pioneering Research & Development Festival opening a dialogue between writers, performers, promoters and audiences during the creative process. This year’s festival expanded its scope and diversity by inviting international artists and holding an open call out. For an artist or company wanting to make boundary-shifting music theatre, Various Stages is the place to generate and share ideas and techniques as well as a prime market-place for promoters.

Frederic Wake-Walker, Artistic Director of Mahogany Opera Group commented:

“Mahogany Opera Group has always been dedicated to the development of new works, artists and the audiences of the future. But now focusing exclusively on these two core areas of working with and for young people and the process of developing new work and talent we are now able to address the most vital needs of the industry.”

As a consequence of this plan, Mahogany Opera Group decided not to re-apply to remain an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation as it will no longer be presenting three new operas that had previously toured the UK each season.

Wake-Walker:

“Our fundamental principles are still closely aligned to ACE’s goals and priorities and we look forward very much to continuing to work closely with the Arts Council through our current Catalyst: Evolve funding and other programmes such as Grants for the Arts and Strategic Touring.”

Mahogany Opera Group also announced today the extension of Snappy Operas which in the last season brought opera to 700 children aged 7 – 11 in 24 schools and involving 40 teachers. Snappy Operas will now be expanded to more schools across the UK and internationally as well as being part of the New Music Biennale 2017 in Hull and London.

Since autumn 2016, Mahogany Opera Group has been on the road visiting schools around the UK to create and produce Snappy Operas, a unique and ambitious programme enabling thousands of primary school children to learn and perform opera. Under the musical and artistic direction of Stephen Deazley and Frederic Wake-Walker, some of the UK’s most exciting composers and writers, such as Emily Hall, Errollyn Wallen, Luke Carver Goss, Ian McMillan, Toby Litt and many more work with over 40 teachers around the country to provide Continued Professional Development (CPD) to accompany their classes in the project. All the composers and librettists are now confirmed for the next phase: Philip Venables & Ted Huffman, Stephen Deazley & Matt Harvey, Nathan Williamson & Zanib Mian, Gwyneth Herbert & Kerry Andrew.

Placing young people at the creative heart of the project, Snappy Operas gives them the opportunity to work closely with composers and librettists to develop each 10 minute piece, and ultimately stage an opera with the support of artists and Mahogany Opera Group workshop leaders. Each opera is written for children’s voices with a flexible accompaniment to allow them to be learned in a single day and performed as widely as possible.

Not only does the project help develop musical and performance abilities, but it also allows children to explore their own creative skills. Snappy Operas embodies Mahogany Opera Group’s mission to stretch the boundaries of what opera can be and who it is for, and to be an advocate for music education nationwide. Mahogany Opera Group brought Snappy Operas to Cornwall, Cumbria, Norfolk, Suffolk, and North Tyneside in 2016/2017 and will cover even more regions in 2017/18, including Essex, Leicestershire and Tower Hamlets.

Wake-Walker:

“Mahogany Opera Group believes that every child should have the opportunity to participate in an opera before they leave school. With Snappy Operas we will create an enduring theatrical and musical resource for primary school children, who may otherwise not have a chance to experience the dramatic possibilities of opera. We hope that the Snappy Operas themselves – which will emerge out of some hugely rich collaborations – come to occupy a significant place in the repertoire of entertaining and engaging theatre for children.”

At the culmination of the current two-year project in 2018, the ten Snappy Operas and accompanying resources will be made available as a permanent resource for UK schools, youth choirs, theatre groups, music education hubs and arts venues, establishing a lasting legacy to be enjoyed by countless young people for years to come.

One of the pupils commented: “My singing has got better. Many levels better. I had never sung before. Now I am told I have one of the best voices in the school. And I didn’t know that before.”

See: Snappy Opera Introduction Video here

New Music Biennale

One of the five Snappy Operas created last year, The Itch Witch, by Emily Hall and Toby Litt is being presented to the public as part of PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial 2017, a free new music festival which forms part of Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, presenting 20 pieces of new music across two festival weekends in Hull (with St Charles Primary school, 1 July) and at London’s Southbank Centre (with Surrey Square School and Pembroke Academy of Music, 8 July). The New Music Biennial will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

Snappy Operas adds to Mahogany Opera Group’s growing body of work for young people and families, which has included touring productions of The Rattler, The Firework-Maker’s Daughter and large-scale participatory project Brundibár. With Snappy Operas, the company aims to forge and strengthen relationships with schools, regional music hubs and services around the UK, bringing opera to as many young people as possible.

Snappy Operas is supported by the Michael Tippett Musical Foundation and PRS for Music Foundation.

For more information and updates on the project visit the Mahogany Opera Group website.


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