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

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!


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

“Altogether I’m sure Mozart would agree it couldn’t be bettered!”

Cosi Fan Tutte 2018 Qube Centre, Colliers Wood

What a wonderful and busy time we had reviving our Cosi Fan Tutte production last week! It was fantastic to get the team back together rehearsing at our lovely local Lantern Arts Centre and presenting our original street opera adaptation in the Colliers Wood Qube Centre and in Mitcham town centre. Thank you so much to all the wonderful businesses for letting us perform in their stores – especially Sainsburys in the Qube Centre which was a new venue for us and The White Lion of Mortimer in Mitcham for the super kind round of drinks after the show! What a treat for thirsty performers! Read more

Help us bring opera to new audiences!

Cast & Creative Team from Cosi Fan Tutte at The Offies Awards

We are looking for reliable, enthusiastic volunteers with an interest in theatre, music and community projects to help us create our Cosi Fan Tutte re-imagined for high street locations in Merton, South London.

No experience necessary – all training will be provided! Volunteers will get a sneak peek into our rehearsals and travel expenses covered on performance days. We also provide tea & cake! To find out further details or if you have any questions please contact General Manager, Astrid Hilne.

Need more info? check out our Cosi Fan Tutte page.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Introducing the Cosi Fan Tutte 2018 Cast

We are delighted to announce the singers and instrumentalists for our Cosi Fan Tutte 2018 production.


Louisa Tee

Louisa Tee – Fiordiligi

Louisa trained as an actress at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and then gained a scholarship to study singing at Trinity College of Music after which she attended the Opera Works course at the English National Opera. Louisa was nominated for best female in the Off West End awards for the role of Violetta in La Traviata at the Soho Theatre which then transferred to the Tricycle Theatre and toured to UK venues. She then went on to play The Countess, Le Nozze di Figaro which also toured the UK. Other roles include Mimi, La Boheme (Soho Theatre and UK tour) Donna Anna, Don Giovanni (Soho Theatre) Queen of the Night, Magic Flute (Hawaii Performing Arts Festival) Fiordiligi, Cosi Fan Tutte Grimeborn (Arcola Theatre) Louisa also directed Magic Flute and Orpheus in the Underworld for St Pauls Opera recently and has worked in the chorus of Opera Holland Park and Raymond Gubbay. Read more

Sharing Creative Skills…

May has kicked off with a busy couple of weeks for the Baseless Fabric Team as we gear up for our Cosi Fan Tutte performances in June, prepare for our Die Fledermaus school workshops in July as well as collaborating with local theatre company Attic to run another successful Merton Creative Networking Event.

St Teresa’s Primary School opera workshop

In July we’ll be offering schools in Merton and Wandsworth opera workshops to give young people an insight into what opera is, hear a professional opera singer sing right next to them and teach them to sing and act out the characters of an opera duet themselves. We have professional drama practitioners, musical directors and opera singers leading these school workshops and as part of the process of choosing these practitioners for our forthcoming workshops we recently held a Skills Sharing Workshop to meet workshop leaders new to Baseless Fabric. Read more