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.

 

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

Our new production supported by Wimbledon Foundation

Pop up Opera Performance at Wimbledon Foundation

Pop Up Opera Performance at Wimbledon Foundation

We are beyond thrilled to announce that we have been awarded funding by the Wimbledon Foundation’s new Arts and Community Engagement Fund (ACE) to create our next Merton Street Opera!

Following on from the success of Drifting Dragons (2016) and Cosi Fan Tutte (2017) we are now re-imagining Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus for free unticketed high street performances enabling everyone to experience high quality professional opera for free. Read more

2017 A year in review

St Teresa’s Primary School opera workshop

It’s the start of a new year so it’s that time of year that gets you thinking about what you’ve achieved over the last year. We had a big year in 2017 with two massively successful productions – Cosi Fan Tutte and Reunion & Dark Pony – both of which included professional performances, workshops for young people, and for Cosi also sessions for the elderly, not to mention re-writing the music and libretto for the high street! We loved working with so many shops, cafes, supermarkets and libraries for performances, especially being part of National Libraries Week for our Reunion & Dark Pony production. Our Cosi Fan Tutte further embedded our work in our home borough of Merton, while Reunion & Dark Pony took us further across South London to Southwark, Lambeth and Wandsworth as well as our first performances in the new Merton Arts Space in Wimbledon Library.  Read more

5 Star Review & OffWestEnd Award Nomination

We have been overwhelmed and delighted by everyone’s super positive responses to our Cosi Fan Tutte Street Opera!

Firstly, we are so excited to have been nominated for the Offies Best Opera Production award by OffWestEnd.com after one of their assessors saw our Morden performance. The nominations continue over the year with the 2017 winners announced early 2018 – so keep your fingers crossed and watch this space!!

And we couldn’t be more thrilled by our 5 and 4 star reviews from Operissima and LondonTheatre1 respectively. You can read the full reviews at the links below or check out the Cosi Fan Tutte page for some of the quotations we’ve picked out. Read more

“I’d date Guglielmo if he was filled with marshmallows…”

Wow, running opera workshops for young people can be such fun – and so rewarding! We’ve just run a series of workshops at Merton primary, secondary schools and the fantastic Jigsaw4u as part of our Cosi Fan Tutte Street Opera project, funded by Wimbledon Foundation and it’s really been fantastic. Many of these children would not otherwise have an opportunity to access this art form, and some may not have previously known what opera was, but after a session with us they were confidently singing a Mozart love duet and giving us their best confident cocky Guglielmos and flirty coy Dorabellas!

Read more

Big thanks to everyone involved in Drifting Dragons

Patisserie Valerie, Wimbledon Piazza

Patisserie Valerie, Wimbledon Piazza

We had such an amazing time running our Merton Opera project Drifting Dragons this summer – we hope you managed to catch one of the performances on your high street or perhaps participated in one of our workshops at schools and young people’s groups in the area.

It was fantastic seeing the surprised faces in Morrisons and M&S as customers realised that other customers were opera singing their conversation! And we were delighted by the positive audience responses – everybody seemed surprised and pleased we’d gatecrashed their lives for 10mins in a public space as they went about their daily life, shopping, waiting for a bus or drinking coffee.

Jigsaw4u

Jigsaw4u

The biggest thanks to all of the local businesses across the borough of Merton that supported the project and allowed us to perform in their stores – Wyevale Garden Centre, The Gorringe Park Pub, Tesco Tooting, M&S and the Qube Centre, Café La Lavella and Morden Library, the New Horizon Centre and Pollards Hill Library, Starbucks & Waitrose Raynes Park, Tag Elezz Café and Morrisons Mitcham, Patisserie Valerie and Morrisons Wimbledon, Saucer & Cup and the Co-Op Wimbledon Park, Maison St Cassien and Bayley & Sage! And also thanks for those involved in our performances as part of the Arcola Theatre’s Grimeborn Festival – Café Route, Dalston Junction station manager, Dalston Square, Hackney Council and of course the Arcola itself. We had so much enthusiasm and support so thank you all! Read more