2018, what a year…

What a year 2018 was for Baseless Fabric! We began the year with the thrilling news that we were the first recipient of the Wimbledon Foundation’s prestigious new Arts and Community Engagement Fund for our new street opera project Die Fledermaus!

This project, with the additional support of Arts Council England, Merton Council and the Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust, encompasses the creative adaptation of an opera for the high street, the free professional performances, workshops for both schools and elderly lunch clubs and two school parallel productions! So while the project has similarities to our previous street operas Drifting Dragons and Cosi Fan Tutte, it is also bigger and better than ever!

Die Fledermaus R&D Rehearsal

During 2018 we creatively adapted the opera for the high street with Artistic Director Joanna Turner re-writing the libretto, Leo Geyer re-writing the music for 3 instruments, and our exciting professional cast exploring sections of the new adaptation in our Research & Development period and showing a few scenes to an invited audience at Wimbledon Theatre Studio in November 2018. During 2019 the libretto and score will undergo further development, the cast will undertake a full rehearsal period leading to the free unticketed performances in early August 2019. And before then we have to develop relationships with all the businesses we wish to perform in (about 50!), some new some old across both Merton and Wandsworth, so we can bring our unique re-imagining of Die Fledermaus to a high street near you. Being a Merton Best Business Award Finalist for Best in the Creative Sector this year will no doubt help.

Cast & Crew from Cosi Fan Tutte at The Offies Awards

We revived our previous street opera Cosi Fan Tutte in June 2018 after we were a Finalist for Best Opera Production at the OffWestEnd Awards in March. It was fantastic to welcome back the old team as well as new faces Louisa Tee, Ilona Suomalainen and Zanete Uskane to bring the 5-star production to life again in Colliers Wood The Qube Shopping Centre, Mitcham town centre, and a thrilling indoor evening adaptation in Wimbledon’s Merton Arts Space.

In July 2018 we continued our success of bringing opera taster workshops to local schools to introduce young people to opera in a modern, accessible and relevant way and excite as many young people as we can with this wonderful art form. Our brilliant workshop leaders Elliott, James and Danae inspired over 400 young people in both primary and secondary schools in Merton and Wandsworth with the teacher at Swaffield Primary telling them “many of the young people were now considering a career in opera!”

St Marks Primary School Workshop

We can’t wait to inspire many more young people both in our similar taster workshops in summer 2019 and in our hugely exciting new parallel productions running from January to August 2019! The two lucky groups at Cranmer Primary and St John Bosco College will work with their workshop leaders on a fortnightly basis over this period to create their own spin-off productions inspired by Die Fledermaus – we can’t wait to see what they get up to!

Another exciting piece of news in 2018 was that we were awarded a Santander Discovery Grant for another young people’s project. Building on our success of working with libraries during our 2017 Reunion & Dark Pony production and associated outreach, we will be offering free drama workshops at Mitcham Library to expand their offer of cultural activity in an area where opportunities for such activity for young people might be limited. We’re so pleased to have been awarded this grant and will update you soon with more details of the workshops taking place this year.

Artistic Director Joanna Turner with son Sam in rehearsals

Excitingly Baseless Fabric had two new people joining the team in 2018 – Astrid Hilne became our General Manager and Rachel Barnett-Jones joined our Board of Trustees. The experience and hard work of both has been invaluable and we have no doubt will continue to be so during 2019. And Artistic Director Joanna brought her new baby son into the Die Fledermaus R&D rehearsals who was named the new company mascot by the cast!

Now Christmas is over and the new year is well underway, we’re hard at work planning the upcoming parts of the Die Fledermaus project, the Mitcham Library workshops and planning further ahead – so thank you so much for your continued support and we can’t wait to see what this year brings…

And all the best to you for a happy and successful 2019!


So which superhero are you?

We had a great time in our Research & Development rehearsals and sharing last week. Thank you to everyone who came along to see what we’ve been up to so far and give feedback. As well as working hard on the music, staging the scenes and making sure the storyline is clear we also asked our singers a few questions to help you get to know them….

Die Fledermaus R&D

We have a superhero theme to Die Fledermaus. If you could be any superhero who would you be and why?

Claire Wild: I want to be the invisible one from Fantastic Four for a million reasons really, but mostly to be sneaky and overhear conversations.

David Horton: Nightcrawler because he can teleport and is super agile and I’m neither of those things!

Alistair Ollerenshaw: Spiderman – to be super agile and be able to swing from buildings.

Abigail Kelly: Scarlet Witch as she is possibly the most powerful being in the Marvel universe. Read more

Our School Parallel Production Workshop Leaders!

We are super excited to introduce our talented music and drama workshop leaders who will be working with the young people’s groups in our Die Fledermaus parallel productions at Cranmer Primary School and St John Bosco College….


Elliot Aynthony Ajai-Ajagbe Dale

Elliott Anthony Ajai-Ajagbe Daley – Drama Practitioner

Elliott Anthony Ajai-Ajagbe Daley has worked with the Lyric Theatre for 10 years where he has run a variety of the flagship drama based youth inclusion programs such as START and REWIND and is currently lead practitioner for the youth drama program, ‘Acting Up’. He also runs freelance drama and spoken word workshops in schools for them and other theatres such as the BAC, Harts and Bush Theatre.

Elliott aka WordPlay is a storyteller through and through, skilled in both spoken and written word. As a spoken word artist he’s performed on some amazing stages and at some prestigious events including The Manorlogz Vox Africa, TedXYouth and the London 2012 Games. His written work has seen him teach across the world from London theatres to Portugal, Ghana and more. Having never grown out of his love of stories, he has made them his life, from poetry and plays to running with the bulls, surfing and jumping out of planes!… Now he’s turned that passion and inspiration into his first graphic novel Winter Solstice, out this Christmas


Natalie Burch

Natalie Burch – Musical Director

Natalie Burch specialises in vocal accompaniment and is widely in demand as a song pianist across London and the UK. She won the accompaniment prize at the 2015 Maureen Lehane Awards at Wigmore Hall, was a finalist alongside 2nd Prize winner James Way at the 2017 Kathleen Ferrier Awards and is a 2018 Britten-Pears, Leeds Lieder and Samling Young Artist.

Natalie co-directs a multi-voice song ensemble, SongSpiel, with whom she is touring Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s The Thought Machine through 2018/2019 in an Arts Council funded project with Ensemble Perpetuo. With the group, she is also in the midst of a project performing and recording William Marsey’s Austerity Songs which was commissioned by SongSpiel in 2017.

Performance highlights include Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer and Stephen Hough’s Other Love Songs at Wigmore Hall, a new commission by Daniel Kidane for St. John’s Smith Square, recitals with James Way and Francesca Chiejina at Leith Hill Place and 22 Mansfield St. and performances of Schumann’s Mignon Lieder and Frauenliebe und-Leben at St. James’ Piccadilly.

Natalie is a staff pianist at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama where she was a fellow and gained her Masters with distinction under Eugene Asti and Andrew West. She studied at Chetham’s School of Music and in 2014 graduated with first class honors in musicology from King’s College London with piano at the Royal Academy of Music.

She is very grateful to her sponsors at the Leverhulme Trust, Help Musicians UK and the Guildhall Trust.


Elen Jones

Elen Jones – Drama Practitioner

Elen is a freelance Youth Drama Director and Educator who has extensive experience working with young people, directing a number of school productions and teaching key drama skills, most recently as the head of Drama at ACS International School. In addition, she has worked alongside a number of companies including the National Theatre’s New Views project, Shakespeare School’s productions and the International Schools Theatre Association. 

Currently, Elen is working as a Youth Theatre Director for Lewisham Youth Theatre and as a Storyteller for the Dulwich Picture Gallery devising drama with young people from the Baytree Project. She is also currently setting up after school drama clubs in collaboration with Montage Theatre Arts and The Albany Theatre to make Performing Arts more accessible to young people in her local area. 

Creatively, she is inspired by the work of theatre companies such as Peeping Tom with their focus on hyper-realisation as well as the likes of Frantic Assembly, Theatre Complicité and Cheek by Jowl, whose work demonstrates the beauty of combining historic theatre making with contemporary innovations, stretching the boundaries and reaching new levels. She is equally interested in verbatim theatre and exploring contemporary means of storytelling, through looking at the political as local.


James Cleeve

James Cleeve – Musical Director & Animateur

James is a freelance Musical Director and Animateur, working primarily in theatre and music education.

Recent projects include working as Music Director for the New Zealand Young Shakespeare Company at the Globe, running community singing workshops at the Young Vic, and conducting the world premiere of a song cycle for 200 children young people with HMDT.

For a number of years James conducted the annual Lambeth Singing Festival concerts for 900 children at the Festival Hall. He regularly works with The Southbank Centre, Spitalfields Music Trust and Saffron Hall, and in the past has run workshops with companies including English National Opera, English Touring Opera and Surrey Arts.

Outside of music education, recent theatrical projects have included: MD’ing the European premiere of Yank! The Musical in Manchester and its transfer into the Charing Cross Theatre London, and National Tours of The Sound of Music (Assistant MD), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (keys), and Top Hat (keys/accordion).


Abigail Kelly

Abigail Kelly – Opera Singer

Abigail Kelly gained a post graduate diploma in operatic studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and completed her undergraduate studies at Birmingham Conservatoire with a first class honours degree.

Abigail’s operatic roles include Susanna and Barbarina (The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart) English Touring Opera (ETO), Pamina (The Magic Flute – Mozart) Opera Up Close, Ninetta (La Gazza Ladra – Rossini) Midland Opera, Fido (Paul Bunyan – Britten) ETO, Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro – Mozart) Opéra de Baugé, First Boy (The Magic Flute – Mozart) ETO, First Lady (The Magic Flute – Mozart) Opera Minima, Despina (Così fan tutte – Mozart) ETO, Naiad (Rusalka – Dvořák) ETO, Cobweb (A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Britten) ETO and Belinda (Dido and Aeneas – Purcell).

Internationally Abigail has performed as a featured artist with Opera South Africa and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and has given solo recitals in Kingston Jamaica, Hungary, Montserrat, The Cayman Islands, Germany and Poland.

Abigail’s performances in newer works include the role of Queen Nanny of the Maroons in Shirley Thompson’s one woman opera Sacred Mountain (Tête à Tête 2015, Edna Manley School of Visual and Performing Arts, Kingston, Jamaica 2016); performer and originator of the role of Una in Melanie Wilson’s Opera for the Unknown Woman (2016 UK tour); Girl in Stephen Oliver’s The Waiter’s Revenge (Birmingham Opera Company); performances and recording of Michael Stimpson’s The Sharecroppers Son, (Ashley Wood Festival); Dido in Luca Francesconi’s Lips, eyes…..bang with the Thallein Ensemble; the role of Dido Elizabeth Belle in Shirley J Thompson’s Spirit of the Middle Passage at Queen Elizabeth Hall with the London Philharmonia; the roles of Jamaican girl and Mrs Grant in Richard Chew’s Mary Seacole The Opera and the role of Sara in Jonathan Dove’s Tobias and the Angel (Bollington Festival Opera).

As a keen anamateur and advocate of children’s opera, Abigail has performed in many operas written for younger audiences and often in particular for young people with special educational needs. Performances produced by English Touring Opera include This is my bed by Pete Letanka, performed at the Polka Theatre and the Luxembourg Philharmonie; Midnight Moon and Red Blue Green by Tim Yealland; Waxwings by Clive and Mark Ives; the roles of Sophia and Yelena in the award winning children’s opera Laika the Space Dog by Russel Hepplewhite, performances including a UK schools tour, Armel Opera Festival in Hungary and L’Opera Grand in Avignon. Abigail has performed in many children’s operas and devised pieces by Tim Yealland and Rachel Leach including Spin (Luxembourg Philharmonie) In the Belly of the Horse (Tricycle Theatre, London and UK schools tour) and Mad Spirits (The Arts Depot, London).


Juliane Gallant

Juliane Gallant – Musical Director

Canadian pianist and conductor Juliane Gallant holds a Masters of Performance in Piano Accompaniment from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Juliane has previously worked with Opera on Location (Don Giovanni, Carmen), St Paul’s Opera (Cosi fan tutte, Orphée aux enfers), Opera MIO (A Fantastic Bohemian: The Tales of Hoffmann revisited), Magnetic Opera (The Medium), Clapham Opera Festival (La Bohème), Rossini Young Artists (Il barbiere di Siviglia), and Opera Upclose (Carmen, Ulla’s Odyssey). She also regularly performs with Opera Holland Park’s award-winning outreach programme Inspire. Juliane has appeared at Wigmore Hall, the Barbican and on West End stages.


Fancy a sneak peek of our new street opera?

Eventbrite - Die Fledermaus R&D Sharing

The Production

Die Fledermaus is a hugely fun, often silly story with some brilliant characters and very catchy tunes. Die Fledermaus means ‘The Bat’ but in our modern version Bat Man may play a role instead! Funded by the Wimbledon Foundation’s new Arts and Community Engagement Fund (ACE), Arts Council EnglandMerton Council and the Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust, our Die Fledermaus production follows on from the success of our two previous Merton Street Operas Drifting Dragons and Cosi Fan Tutte. Like these previous productions, Die Fledermaus has been cut to approximately an hour, with a new modern English accessible libretto, and with the music re-written for 3 instruments suitable for promenade performance. The final production will take place in summer 2019 with scenes popping up along the high street and with the audience free to follow our characters down the street or just watch one scene. The music has some waltzes this time round so hope you’ll be waltzing down the high street with us!

The Free Sharing

On the 29th November at Wimbledon Theatre Studio we will be presenting a few scenes from our new adaptation, discussing our work and asking for your feedback (duration approximately an hour). If you would like to join us please click to book your ticket now. Tickets are FREE but limited so please register.

Eventbrite - Die Fledermaus R&D Sharing

Our school parallel productions of Die Fledermaus

We are thrilled to announce a new and exciting aspect of the Die Fledermaus project!

St Teresa’s Primary School opera workshop

As well as our professional cast performing our re-imagined version of Die Fledermaus in summer 2019, we will also have two groups of young people creating their own new versions of this classic opera as part of an ongoing youth opera project! The two groups, one primary and one secondary, will meet up fortnightly January – July 2019 with our professional music and drama practitioners to learn to sing and act out songs and scenes from the opera as well as writing new scenes, songs and perhaps even new characters to create their very own brand new show inspired by the opera. The fortnightly sessions will then lead to a week’s rehearsal and performance in the summer holidays so that the groups can show their ‘parallel productions’ to parents, teachers and the professional cast! Following which the groups will come to see our professional production to experience seeing a professional opera and hearing professional opera singers live and up close – and to be able to compare the professional version to their own! Read more

Announcing the Cast of Die Fledermaus

We are pleased to announce the cast of Die Fledermaus!

Claire Wild

Claire Wild

Claire Wild attended the Royal Northern College of Music‚ sponsored by the Peter Moores Foundation and the Musicians Benevolent Fund. She won the Webster Booth Award‚ the James Oncken Song Prize and the Frost Brownson Award.      

Highlights in recent seasons include Lilli Vanessi / Katharine in Kiss Me, Kate and Elle La voix humaine for Welsh National Opera, Susanna Le nozze di Figaro for Regents Opera and Petra in A Little Night Music for Opera Project at West Green House, Welsh National Opera as Emma in Khovanshchina and Garsington Opera as Caridad The Skating Rink, a newly commissioned opera by David Sawer. Read more

Re-imagining opera for the high street: the libretto

After the success of last year’s Cosi Fan Tutte and with the amazing opportunity afforded by Wimbledon Foundation’s Arts & Community Engagement Fund, we were excited to get to work on the tricky but satisfying process of adapting another opera for performances along the high street to reach audiences who might never go to see an opera in a traditional opera house / theatre venue.

As we’d had such positive audience responses to our adaptation of Cosi, we decided to have the same team re-writing Die Fledermaus – myself, Artistic Director Joanna Turner, re-writing the libretto (the words the characters sing) and Leo Geyer re-writing the music (changing what’s written for a full orchestra to 3 instruments, changes to vocal lines and of course making sure our massive cuts work musically). Together Leo and I also cut the opera down to about an hour and adapt it to make sense for the modern high street. Read more

School kids considering a career in opera!

Holy Trinity Primary School Workshop

A few weeks ago we had a great time running workshops for various primary and secondary schools across Merton and Wandsworth teaching Years 5 & 6 about opera as part of our Die Fledermaus project.

We asked our brilliant workshop leaders James, Elliott and Danae to tell us a bit more about how they went….. Read more

We’re a Merton Best Business Award Finalist!

We are thrilled to have been chosen as a Merton Best Business finalist in the ‘Best in the Creative Sector’ category! We are so delighted to have our work recognised locally as part of these awards as we are committed to embedding our work in our home borough of Merton and offering something different and exciting to our local audiences and the participants in our workshops.

We’re looking forward to meeting the other finalists at the awards ceremony soon!