After only two years in their new home at Wormsley on the Buckinghamshire/ Oxfordshire border, the first large scale community opera will be performed in the Opera Pavilion in July 2013 as part of the Garsington Opera season. Over 180 people will be on stage, ranging from school children to senior citizens drawn from the local diverse community working alongside professional opera singers, musicians, directors, designers, choreographers, stage managers and technicians. This is the first time an opera has been commissioned by Garsington Opera.

The satirist, Richard Stilgoe, co-writer of Starlight Express and Cats, together with composer Orlando Gough, has been commissioned to create an hour long opera. A funny, quirky and political piece has now been created after initial workshops held in local primary and secondary schools as well as with an adult group, where themes and ideas were explored, Richard Stilgoe said:

“One minute you are on the M40 being dive bombed by red kites; the next you are in the peace and beauty of Wormsley, surrounded by ancient trees. This contrast has been our starting point in which a community (village) stands up and sits down for what it believes in. Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire must feel it has been singled out for transport schemes – the Romans built the Icknield Way through it, the Georgians dug the Grand Union Canal, the 20th century drove the motorway through the chalk hills and the 21st century threatens HS2. We took this idea to the groups we visited and their reactions were diverse and powerfully expressed. So this is a story about how a huge road scheme divides a community not only physically but socially, as they battle over the appropriate level of protest and deal with internal arguments, incoming professional protestors, rent-a-crowd and the media. How do you use the village’s people, wildlife and archaeology to prevent or alter the government’s plans? If and when the road is built, will life in the village ever be the same? Meanwhile, watching this and interested only in whether the new road will bring more food, are the red kites”.

Composer Orlando Gough said:

“The culmination of all the lively local workshops with many different ages over the past year is the creation of a jazzy, fun piece for our talented and diverse group including characterful solo lines for amateurs singing alongside and sometimes with professional singers, challenging choruses written in three parts, a smattering of rapping red kites and songs appropriate for charming golden crested newts and Chiltern-loving animals.”

Taster workshops for teenagers and adults as well as workshops in participating school throughout Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire continue prior to the start of weekly rehearsals in March.

The project will enable those who have little or no experience of live performance to become involved either as performers, technicians or audience. The total number of people benefiting from the project will be over 2,600. In addition to the opera chorus of primary school children, young people and adults, the project will also involve 50 backstage volunteers working as project assistants, programme sellers, car park attendants, chaperones and ushers; they will be supported by a fully professional production team. Others from the local community who will be involved are the audience of 1,800 together with a further 600 children and adults involved in the dress rehearsal as well as other students in the schools involved.

Garsington Opera Education has been running projects and forming partnerships with local schools and organisations for many years. Since their recent move to Wormsley they have concentrated on their new locality establishing firm links with the community. This will be the first time that Garsington Opera Education has presented such a major event. It will be part of the 2013 season and taking place in the award winning Opera Pavilion on 19 & 20 July.


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