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Skill Sharing Workshop for Facilitators – Work with us in 2022!

We are delighted to be partnering with Southwark Playhouse to offer a free opera skills sharing workshop from 1pm to 4pm on Friday 8th October 2021.

We are looking to meet facilitators who are interested in learning about opera and how their skills may be transferable to working in opera in future, and for us to meet talented facilitators to work with Baseless Fabric on our 2022 projects which will range from one-off sessions to long term programmes.

We recognise that opera is traditionally a white middle class artform and the lack of diversity in the arts is one of the sector’s most important issues. We strongly believe not only that opera is for everyone but that our casts and workshop leading teams should be representative of the South London areas in which we perform and where we provide young people with our opera workshops. As such, we strongly encourage theatre facilitators of colour to apply.

Practitioners will not need any prior experience in or knowledge of opera to attend. We actively encourage practitioners of all levels to register.

Places are limited so please register your interest in attending by emailing [email protected]

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Introducing Opera to Merton and Wandsworth Schools

Across 2 weeks in July, 14 workshops were delivered to 8 primary and secondary schools in Wandsworth & Merton. Sports halls were filled with the sounds of the Toreador Song and the moves from the latest TikTok trends as the children were introduced to Baseless Fabric’s adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen by our wonderful team of facilitators Rachel Maby, Juliane Gallant and Elliott Daley.

Feedback from the students has been wonderful. 99% of students said that they liked the workshop with 81% of those saying they loved it. 85% of students said that after the workshop they would now definitely attend or consider attending an opera. When asked what they had learnt during the session answers ranged from as specific as “the position of the larynx when singing” to simply “that I like opera!” and “that opera can be fun!”

Possibly one of the most rewarding parts of these workshops is that our facilitators see the impact the experience can have on the students, and even see growth in the confidence and interest of individual children over the course of the session. For example, student ‘P’ started his session with his back to the facilitators. During the course of the workshop he became more interested, especially when Juliane compared music to his favourite subject, maths. By the end ‘P’ was fully involved, excited and he wanted to answer ALL the questions!

Student ‘S’ was described by teachers as a very disengaged student who regularly checks out of lessons and doesn’t speak much. However, much to her teacher’s surprise, ‘S’ was very engaged throughout the workshop. Her hand kept shooting up during discussions and she was very happy to share her knowledge on instruments of the orchestra.

Student ‘A’ did not seem interested or confident at the start when he found out it was an opera workshop, but he loved the singing and acting and was very helpful in encouraging others to join in once he realised how much fun it was!

These workshops were organised with the help of the lovely teams at Merton Music Foundation and Wandsworth Music and were generously supported by Wimbledon Foundation, Wandsworth Council, Merton Council, Arts Council England and The Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust.

 

 

 

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Opera Taster Workshops Are Underway

This week marked the start of our Carmen Opera Taster Workshops to 8 primary and secondary schools in Wandsworth & Merton. The workshops were organised with the help of the lovely teams as Merton Music Foundation and Wandsworth Music and will be delivered over the next 2 weeks by our brilliant team of facilitators – Rachel Maby, Juliane Gallant, Elliott Daley and Elizabeth Humphries.

 

 

 

 

Kindly supported by Wimbledon Foundation, Wandsworth Council, Merton Council, Arts Council England and The Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust, these workshops aim to inspire young people’s interest in singing and performing opera in a fun and accessible way and give them a chance to hear a professional opera singer sing live and up close.

 

 

 

 

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Care Home Concerts Return!

Claire & Elspeth

Following the success of our concerts in September 2020, our covid-safe Care Home Concerts are returning this May! Thanks to the generosity of Wimbledon Foundation and Merton Giving, we will be performing for residents and staff from the gardens and carparks of care homes across Wandsworth and Merton.

We are thrilled that Soprano Claire Wild and Pianist Elspeth Wilkes will be returning to deliver these concerts with us. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram where we’ll be posting throughout the project.

 

 

 

 

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Welcoming Rachel to the Baseless Fabric Team

We are delighted to welcome Rachel Kraftman to our team. Rachel will be organising our concerts for care homes and workshops for schools over the next few months. We asked her a few questions so you could get to know her!

What excites you most about working with Baseless Fabric?

I share Baseless Fabric’s passionate belief that theatre and music have the power to build community and transform society. I am so excited to be focusing specifically on community engagement and providing opera, music and theatre experiences to people who may not have had the opportunity otherwise. 

 

What other projects have you been working on recently?

Currently, I am the Programming Producer for The Guilty Feminist, a podcast that explores intersectional feminism in a really fun and accessible way. Working on this show has highlighted to me how valuable it can be to spread awareness on important issues and engage large audiences to make a real difference in people’s lives I am also the Digital Content Producer for Together Productions, a brilliant organisation with a range of community choirs and music projects who believe in bridging social divides, building community, expanding horizons and opening up new perspectives and relationships.

 

How have you been staying sane over the pandemic?

It’s been challenging! There has been time to reflect which I am grateful for. It’s helped me to focus on the things I really care about and make decisions which feel right for me. For example, over this year I have started taking courses for counselling skills. I’ve always had an interest in this area and now I have finally had the time to learn more about it. I’m about to start Level 3 and look forward to continuing to improve my listening, communication and supporting skills. Not only have these skills helped me in both my life and my work, the group of wonderful people I’ve met through the course have themselves been a support during this time. I also got a cat! 
 

Tell us about 3 of your favourite theatre or opera experiences ever.

When I was a teenager our ambitious music teachers put on a full production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. I played the role of 1st Lady and I absolutely loved being a part of it. As part of the project we got to go to the Royal Opera House and watch a professional production. I remember being so overwhelmed by the size of the auditorium and the orchestra. It was an incredible, moving and formative experience both to see the opera and to perform in it with my classmates at school. 
 
At university in Leeds I went to see a society production of Parade by Jason Robert Brown. I’d never heard the soundtrack and knew nothing about the story before I saw it. By the end of the show I was completely floored. The music was incredible and the storyline was so moving. I remember my face was buried in my hands when the lights came up as I tried to stop myself sobbing while my friends sat perplexed on either side of me. To this day I have never seen a professional production of Parade, but it remains my favourite musical. 
 
In 2011 I saw the original broadway production of In The Heights just before it closed. The writer, Lin Manuel Miranda, had returned for the final 3 months of the production in the lead role that he had originated. Everything about this production was perfect and I was blown away. In retrospect, I realise just how lucky I am to have seen a performance by the now stratospheric Lin Manuel (of Hamilton fame).
 
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Carehomes Carpark Die Fledermaus!

Die Fledermaus Arcola Theatre

David Horton as Eisenstein & James McOran-Campbell as Falke

Despite the grey January days this particularly bleak January we have something very exciting to look forward to this summer! With the hugest thanks to the Postcode Community Trust, we are thrilled that later this year when the weather warms up, Covid restrictions are lifted a little and hopefully many carehome residents will have received their vaccine, we are able to offer South West London carehomes a FULL PERFORMANCE of our acclaimed re-imagined Die Fledermaus (4 stars – The Guardian)!

As with our recent carehome concerts, these performances will again take place in the carpark or garden of the care homes to keep residents, staff and artists safe in these changing challenging times. And we are thrilled that this time rather than just concerts we can offer a full performance of Die Fledermaus giving residents and staff an opportunity to enjoy the full story of Strauss’ operetta.

Die Fledermaus (‘The Bat’ or Bat Man in our version!) is a hugely fun, often silly story with some brilliant characters and very catchy tunes. Our new production is reimagined for London life today, cut to approximately an hour, and with a new modern English libretto by Baseless Fabric Artistic Director Joanna Turner, and with the music re-written for violin, accordion and bassoon by Leo Geyer.

We also hope to be able to offer general public performances of Die Fledermaus this summer depending on Covid restrictions so make sure you join our newsletter to be first to hear.

Meanwhile, we’re dusting off the Batman costume and can’t wait to bring a smile to the faces of carehome residents and staff in Merton & Wandsworth this summer.

Whisked the frothy original into a nimble 50- minute snapshot of modern life- , The Guardian
It’s great fun, and Turner’s updating gives a ring of truth to the potentially farcical story.- , The Stage

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Announcing our new adaptation!

We are thrilled to announce that we are re-imagining another classic opera for London life today in our unique street opera style! This time we are taking on one of the big tragic operas with perhaps the most widely recognised operatic music – Carmen by Georges Bizet!

We are so excited to take on this challenge and hugely grateful to our funders: Arts Council, Wimbledon Foundation, Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust, Humphrey Richardson Taylor Charitable Trust, Merton Council, Wandsworth Council and Three Monkies Trust. Thanks to their support we’ll be working on the creative adaptation and offering projects for local young people in 2021. We will also be fundraising further to make the final performances and further activity for young people and the elderly happen in 2022. As ever, if you feel able to support our work we’d be incredibly grateful.

Stay tuned as we bring Carmen to South London!

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Covid Safe Care home concerts

During late September/early October 2020 we headed to seven different care homes across Wandsworth and Merton to provide a concert to their residents and staff to try and bring some musical joy and lift spirits during these difficult times of Covid 19. Kindly funded by Wimbledon Foundation, Merton Giving and Sylvia Waddilove Foundation we performed outside in the car parks and gardens of care homes so that residents and staff could safely enjoy our socially distanced performance. Check out our video for a peek at what we got up to!

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Ready to perform in the carpark!

This week we are kicking off our opera care homes project! Soprano Claire Wild and Pianist Elspeth Wilkes with a small team are visiting a number of different care homes in Merton & Wandsworth. We’re going to be Covid-19 safe with our team working in car parks and gardens at the care homes and have handgel, masks and thermometers at the ready!

 

Claire Wild – Soprano

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.

Concert repertoire includes ElijahMessiah‚ Carmina Burana, Bach St Matthew Passion, Mozart C Minor Mass. She has performed Dallapicolla Commiato and Stravinsky Pulcinella (Royal Northern Sinfonia) and Christmas and New Year Galas (Raymond Gubbay, Orchestra of Opera North, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and London Concert Orchestra) and Messiah (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra).

 

 

Elspeth Wilkes – Pianist

Born in Leigh-on-sea, Essex, Elspeth studied at King’s College, London, Trinity College of Music and Royal Academy of Music. She has performed at venues including St John’s Smith Square; Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House; St Martin-in-the-Fields; Kings Place; Trafalgar Studios; Savoy Theatre, West End as well as performing recitals in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France and South Africa. Elspeth has performed at the Ravenna music festival, Italy, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival where she won the ‘Oscar’ award.

Elspeth has worked with BBC Wales, Royal Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company and Southbank Sinfonia and has performed for HRH The Princess Royal. She also performs regularly for the charities Lost Chord Foundation and Music in Hospitals working with people suffering from dementia.

Elspeth has worked as a repetiteur/musical director with many opera companies including Opera up Close (winning an Olivier award for La Boheme), Opera Brava, Merry Opera, Northern Ireland Opera, Kings Head Opera and Opera de Bauge.

Elspeth is the conductor of Thurrock Choral Society and assistant conductor of Barnes Choir and is a member of the Bridgetower Ensemble.

 

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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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