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Care home Carpark Opera!

Thanks to the generosity of Merton Giving and Wimbledon Foundation we are thrilled to be offering Merton & Wandsworth care homes an opera performance session in their garden or car park this autumn. Based on the successful format we have previously provided to older people’s lunch clubs at community organisations including Age UK, Commonside Trust and Wimbledon Guild we wanted to offer a musical session to help improve older people’s mental well-being during this difficult time. A professional opera singer and pianist will perform several songs and talk about their freelance careers and the work of Baseless Fabric in the garden or car park socially distanced from residents and staff.

If you know a local care home that would be interested and whose restrictions will allow for outdoor visitors this Sept please get in touch!

Meanwhile, we are also intending to offer care homes a full performance of our acclaimed modern English Die Fledermaus next year so that residents and staff can experience the joy of a full operatic story (and a very funny one with hilarious characters and super catchy tunes)! We currently have a fundraising target of £9k to give 6 care homes this opportunity (as well as providing work for 12 freelance professional artists who have all seen their income disappear during this crisis). We have various funding applications into trusts and foundations but if you are able to donate towards this joyful experience for local elderly please donate here!

Click to Support this Care Home Project!

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Opera By Design: Marina Hadjilouca

Last summer we worked with the brilliant designer Marina Hadjilouca on Die Fledermaus. We caught up with her to see what she’s been up to since…

 

What have you been working on since Die Fledermaus?

Abelard and Heloise
Photo: Christos Avramides

I designed the sets and costumes for ‘Abelard and Heloise’. The play premiered in Cyprus on the 14th of February 2020. It a contemporary play, 

written by Yiannis Kalavrianos, and is based on the true story of Abelard and Heloise, two lovers from the French Medieval times. The text speaks about forbidden love, taboo topics, the musts of society. 
 

When you’re part of a new production, where do you start?

Abelard and Heloise
Photo: Christos Avramides

One of the first things I do when I’m brought onto a new production, after I have read the text (or in this case, the score and libretto, and listened to the opera) I have a conversation with the director. We talk about the story and their vision, and I share my first responses with some general inspiration images. We look at things that may have triggered my imagination.

 
The next step is to really go into the plot, discuss it scene-by-scene and look at some tangible ideas through sketches and in a model box. The same thing happens with the costumes, we talk about the characters and analyse their story. We look at images that may have inspired me. This can be from paintings, sculptures all the way to fashion editorials.
 
 

Which of your designs have you been most proud of to date and why? 

Die Fledermaus Arcola Theatre

David Horton as Eisenstein & James McOran-Campbell as Falke in Die Fledermaus 2019

Other than Die Fledermaus, of course! One of my favourite projects to date has been Lysistrata. Aristophane’s classic was adapted and directed by Brian Michaels for the purposes of the European Capital of Culture, Paphos 2017. I was chosen by Brian to design the set and costumes for this unique adaptation. It was a rather different version of  Aristophanes’ comedy, brought together 12 young actors from Cyprus, Brazil and Nigeria, accompanied by the sound of a four-member ensemble from Germany – and it brought the special House of Aion, at the Paphos Archaeological Park to life.

 
It was the first time for me as a performance designer to work at an archaeological site, and I found ways to think about how my designs could become part of such an historically important site.
 
 

Who are your inspirations as a designer? 

Abelard and Heloise
Photo: Christos Avramides

As a practitioner and researcher, I draw inspiration from various different mediums and texts. I visit exhibitions in museums and galleries, I attend performances, I watch movies and series, I read texts about space, about the notion of site and about the notion of scenography and its expanding form.

 
 
 

Artists that I find inspiring…

Tim Etchells. Jeremy Deller. Jeff Wall. Platform Scenography. Olafur Eliasson.
 
Find out more about Marina here.
Find out more about Die Fledermaus at the Arcola, featuring Marina’s designs here.
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It’s our 5th Birthday!

We’re 5 years old! On 22nd December 2014 we nervously registered Baseless Fabric as an official company and set up a meeting with a business bank account manager. It was all a bit scarily official. So how do we do this then?! Run a company, make work in public spaces, engage with our local community…

It’s been a quite mental 5 years and we have learned such a lot both creatively and practically in working out how to make it all happen. We couldn’t have done it without your support.

A First Class Death (2015)

A First Class Death at VAULT Festival, A Secret Life with Theatre 503, Reunion & Dark Pony in South London libraries, street operas Drifting Dragons, Cosi Fan Tutte and Die Fledermaus, Mitcham Library drama workshops, countless Opera Taster Workshops for local schools & sessions with elderly groups, and recently also 2 parallel productions for schools offering young people a chance to engage, explore and be imaginative with opera over a 7 month project. Not to mention becoming a charity 4 years ago!

Cosi Fan Tutte (2017) at Gorringe Park Pub Tooting

2019 certainly has been our most crazily ambitious year yet. Who stages 4 productions at once?! We do apparently! With our Die Fledermaus professional production for the high street, adaptation for the Grimeborn Opera Festival at the Arcola Theatre plus our parallel productions with St John Bosco College and Cranmer Primary School in association with Jigsaw4u all happening at the same time, end of July was a bit busy to say the least with several rehearsal rooms running at once! Plus of course being a working mum is never easy, but Artistic Director Jo had a particularly interesting time when OperaBaby chose that exact time to get a bad chest infection and they spent several nights in hospital! Babies have such an amazing sense of timing!

Die Fledermaus Arcola Theatre

Die Fledermaus (2019)

But OperaBaby quickly got better and the shows were a great success! We had 4 star reviews in The Guardian and The Stage for the first time, fantastic audience feedback for both the sell-out shows at the Arcola and for our 12 street performances. This year we performed in a variety of locations across both our home borough of Merton and neighbouring Wandsworth taking us, for the first time, to Roehampton, Tooting, Wandsworth Town and Battersea. Audience comments included:

‘Amazing! Never been to an opera before! So good! Will try to go see one soon. Such loud clear voices. Brilliant work! Thank you!’

Baseless Fabric Theatre workshop with Cranmer primary school parallel production

Meanwhile, our wonderful groups at St John Bosco and Cranmer Primary performed the most imaginative spin-off productions of Die Fledermaus thrilling their workshop leaders, parents and the professional opera singers with their performances. Who knew that Eisenstein had an evil brother Osenstein? Or that the Eastenders theme tune would meld so perfectly with Strauss? We were super proud of both groups and all that they achieved over the 7 month project with their fantastic workshop leaders Elliott, Natalie, Elen and James – thank you all for your hard work!

And though, yes, Die Fledermaus with all its different elements took up most of our time and energy in 2019, we also found time over the Easter holidays to have fun with 70 brilliant young people in Mitcham Library discovering the skills of beatboxing, stage combat, puppetry and theatre design!

Beatboxing Workshop at Mitcham Library

We’ve had the busiest year to end our first 5 and are now busy planning what happens in the next 5. If you’d like to get involved in some way please drop us a message, we’d love to hear from you. Or if you’d like to help ensure our work is able to continue, why not consider becoming a Friend, whilst getting further insights into how our work is created? We have rather a lot of money to raise, contacts to make and plans to develop to make the next 5 years happen so if you’d like to be involved in the next stage of our future we’d love to hear from you!

Elderly session at Merton and Morden Guild

Yet we couldn’t have made the first 5 happen without you so thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you’ve enabled us to achieve so far –

Joanna, Mark, Francis, Rachel, Arnold and Sophie
(though in 2019 5 actually became 6!)

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Theatre, music and maths!

We are super excited to have Sophie Hamlet joining our Board of Trustees! Not only is she a brilliant accountant but she’s super passionate about theatre, opera and music and reaching new audiences. So we asked her a few questions so you could get to know her: Read more

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“Had never been to the opera and now would love to go!”

Louisa & Giles at the Autumn Rose Club

Louisa & Giles at the Autumn Rose Club

It’s a sad time but we’ve come to the end of our amazing Die Fledermaus project over the past 18 months. We’re looking back on everything that we’ve achieved and all the brilliant people we’ve met, especially the fantastic young people in our Opera Taster Workshops and Parallel Productions and the wonderful older people in our sessions for elderly groups. We’ve had such fun in all the different activities of the project and are so proud of what everyone’s achieved. Read more

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From Morden to the Mariinsky Concert Hall

One of the special new additions to this year’s performances was our brass band, who led the audiences between each performance location. We were lucky to be joined by three wonderful young musicians Siân Collins, Ben Day and Derryck Nasib.

We’re particularly keen to support local young musicians so were excited to have Derryck join the team, who’s actually from Morden. He only needed to roll out of bed 10mins before the call time before our Morden performance! So we thought we’d catch up with him about what it has been like performing with Baseless Fabric this summer:

Read more

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Love musicals? Hate opera? Think again!

We asked Francis, originally a musicals fan, to tell us why we converted him to opera.

I am a musical theatre geek. I’m a self-confessed Renthead and up until a few years ago I hated opera…. But I didn’t realise I was watching the wrong opera productions. Here are 5 reasons why I think, if you love musicals, you should try Baseless Fabric’s free Die Fledermaus:

It’s in modern English and you can hear the words

I thought opera was always in another language or if it was in English you couldn’t really hear the words clearly, sometimes you have to be looking and reading the text from a screen?! – but that doesn’t have to be the case. In the Baseless Fabric’s opera productions the words are clear and you can easily follow the story of what’s going on. In fact Die Fledermaus actually has both spoken scenes and songs so it’s even more like a musical. Read more

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#TeamDieFledermaus

So that you can get to know #TeamDieFledermaus we thought we’d ask our brilliant singers a few questions about their characters:

 

What would your character have in their supermarket shopping trolley?

Falke: Vodka and crisps

Rosalinde: Nappies, formula, Pinot Grigio

Eisenstein: Stella and nappies

Adele: Smashed avocado, honey flavoured lockets, sugar free red bull Read more

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Why Audiences Love Street Opera

Our favourite thing about our street opera performances is seeing how audiences respond. We love that the unique Baseless Fabric style – where operas pop up unexpectedly on the high street, and move from location to location – excites audiences. It’s so thrilling to clearly see people enjoying the performance which you wouldn’t be able to see from the stage of a big opera house.

And when we announced our Die Fledermaus locations, we were delighted to find people reminiscing about our performances of Cosi Fan Tutte in 2017 & 2018. For example:

https://twitter.com/carolinefrmus/status/1148664968482557953

And: Read more

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Talking opera at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships

Leo and Jo at Wimbledon Tennis Championships

Leo and Jo at Wimbledon Tennis Championships

This week our Artistic Director Joanna Turner & General Manager Leo Mercer headed to the Wimbledon Championships and Jo chatted to the Wimbledon Channel & everyone on Henman Hill about our exciting Die Fledermaus project supported by the Wimbledon Foundation’s Arts & Community Engagement Fund. Read more