From a full orchestra to just 3 instruments…

Composer Leo Geyer talks about re-writing the music for our Die Fledermaus adaptation:

Re-imagining a 2-hour opera with 10 roles, chorus and full orchestra down to 1 hour, 4 roles, no chorus and 3 instruments, and to be performed in promenade – is an exciting challenge for any composer! The first hurdle to overcome is which 3 instruments to choose…

Essentially, you need a melody, bass and harmony instrument. In most Classical and Romantic music, the first violin is given most of the melodic material, and this is certainly the case for Die Fledermaus, so violin is the most obvious choice for our melody instrument. The cello is usually playing the bass line so a natural chose but you have to play it sitting down, which makes a promenade performance impossible! Similarly, the double bass is too big and heavy to play on the move. Other options could be the trombone or sousaphone (a tuba that wraps around the body!), but neither are agile instruments for Strauss’s often busy bass lines and both are too loud against a solo violin. This basically leaves one option – the bassoon! Plus, its somewhat humorous sound quality (the bassoon is always accompanying cartoons!) is perfect for comic opera. For a harmony instrument, whilst a keyboard instrument such as a piano, would be ideal in providing the harmony – it’s impossible to move! Acoustic guitar could be an option, but it has no sustain and is very quiet, so the only alternative is the classical accordion!

As Jo has mentioned in her blog, after spending time working out our cuts, Jo worked away at a new libretto. Once Jo had finished, it was my turn to start on the music. I started with the full orchestral score, which I’d already marked up with our cuts and annotations about how to smoothly transition from one cut to another. I would start by writing the violin part, because this is more or less the original violin part. The bassoon part is more difficult. Sometimes it makes most sense to give it the cello line, in other words, the bass line. However, often there is counterpoint, which needs to be brought out, so in reality the bassoon part is a mix of lots of different lines. Once I’ve written these two parts, I essentially give the accordion the rest! In Die Fledermaus, the strings are often playing chords to accompany the melody, so it’s quite straightforward to amalgamate these into the accordion. Then it’s matter of working out what else is important in the orchestration and slotting it in!

Once I’d completed the instrumentation I would write out the vocal lines and insert Jo’s new text. It’s a tough job writing a new libretto, particularly as the original is in German. The new text has to have the right number of syllables to fit with the melodies and then more difficult still, the stresses of the words have to fall with the stresses in the music. If they are not in the right place, then it becomes very difficult to sing, and therefore difficult to hear the words. So Jo and I have to work hard to get this to work, which sometimes means making small amends to the music. Die Fledermaus is a bit more problematic than Cosi, because the chorus are much more involved and there are more solo roles than we have available. In some cases, I have had to change the vocal lines so as to complete the harmony and make a full sound. As a result, this has made Eisenstein’s part higher, and it has be sung by a tenor, when normally Eisenstein is either a tenor or a baritone role.

Re-writing the music is a very time-consuming process – the final score has over 40,000 notes! Naturally with that volume of notes there are bound to be some errors. So after completing it, my editor, Jo and I, go over the score in fine detail to iron out any errors. And now it’s ready! I’m very much looking forward to hearing it for the very first time in November!

Leo Geyer

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

Die Fledermaus School Workshops

Students workshop at St Marks Academy

As part of our exciting Die Fledermaus project we are running a series of workshops in primary and secondary schools across Merton & Wandsworth this July. These workshops teach young people about opera giving many of them an insight into an art form they might not otherwise encounter. They learn about what opera is and who is involved in creating it; the story and characters of Die Fledermaus and our modern adaptation; they learn to sing and act out the characters of a section of the opera themselves; and they get to hear a professionally trained opera singer sing right next to them and sing with her!

We can’t wait for our three talented workshop leaders to get working with all these schools in a few weeks. Meanwhile, you can learn a bit more about them here: 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

Cosi Fan Tutte Pop-Up Performance!

Two girls catch the eye of two good looking guys across a crowded room at a party and fuelled by a couple of glasses of wine and having checked their make-up decide to go over and chat to them. A scene that happens all the time across many a crowded room. Except that this time our two girls were Fiordiligi and Dorabella singing a duet from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte from Baseless Fabric’s new adaptation with arrangement by Leo Geyer and libretto by Joanna Turner.

Read more

Do you think opera is for you?

Feedback from Bishop Gilpin School Opera workshop

Here at Baseless Fabric we are pretty passionate about giving everybody a chance to experience theatre and opera. Opera in particular is frequently seen as an art form that isn’t for ‘everyone’ and we truly believe it is and that everyone should have the chance to experience it. Luckily we have several wonderful funders who agree with this idea, including the brilliant Wimbledon Foundation who support charities in our home borough of Merton.

We were lucky enough to attend the exciting Wimbledon Championships this year and Artistic Director Joanna Turner was interviewed about the work that Baseless Fabric are doing to bring opera to new audiences and the opera workshops for young people and the elderly that Wimbledon Foundation have so kindly supported. 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!

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Cosi Fan Tutte Workshop Leaders

We’re kicking off our young people’s workshops this week as part of our Cosi Fan Tutte street opera project. We’ll be running workshops at various schools across the borough of Merton over the next few weeks teaching young people about Mozart, getting them singing a bit of the opera themselves and hearing our professional opera singer Felicity Buckland sing! Kindly supported by the Wimbledon Foundation, we’re super excited to be introducing lots of young people in Merton to Mozart’s fabulous music!! 

We’ll let you know soon how we get on but for now wanted to introduce you to our workshop leaders for this project – if we’re coming to your school or group you’ll get to meet these opera professionals over the next few weeks! And we’re all really looking forward to meeting you….. Read more

Announcing our Cosi Fan Tutte R&D Cast

We are proud to announce our singers for the Cosi Fan Tutte street opera R&D. 

The Cast

Felicity Buckland – Dorabella

Felicity Buckland

Felicity trained at the RNCM, and on ENO’s Opera Works programme. She studies privately with Mary Plazas.

Her operatic appearances include Angelina La Cenerentola (High Time Opera); Cherubino The Marriage of Figaro (Opera Up Close); Cupid Orpheus in the Underworld and Ida/cover Orlovsky Die Fledermaus (Opera Danube); Una, Kiss Me, Figaro! (Merry Opera) and Mercedes Carmen (Co-Opera Co). She has also spent seasons in the chorus at Opera Holland Park, as a chorus mentor for Birmingham Opera, and at English Touring Opera, where she also sang the role of Mama in Dust Child, a specially-written opera for children with special educational needs.

Felicity is in demand for solo oratorio, and performs and records extensively as a professional consort singer, including appearing on Eric Whitacre’s Grammy Award-winning choral disc, Light and Gold. She is also a singing tutor and experienced choral animateur, leading workshops for a variety of groups of people.

Felicity is currently preparing the role of Rossweisse in Die Walküre for Grange Park Opera, in their brand new theatre at West Horsley Place. Read more