Blog

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.
Blog

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!)

Blog

“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

Blog

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

Blog

#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

Blog

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

Blog

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

Blog

Help us bring opera to Merton & Wandsworth

We are looking for reliable, enthusiastic volunteers with an interest in theatre, music and community projects to help us create our Die Fledermaus re-imagined for high street locations across Merton & Wandsworth , South London between 1st – 14th August.

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!

You only need to commit to a couple of hours per show – and of course you get to see the show too! Whether you can commit to one, two or all of the performances we’d love to hear from you!

To find out further details or if you have any questions please contact General Manager, Leo Mercer.

Need more info? check out our Die Fledermaus page.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Performance Dates

Date Time Location  
Thu 1st Aug  5pm COLLIERS WOOD
Starts at Savacentre / The Qube, SW19 1DD
 FREE
Fri 2nd Aug  11am POLLARDS HILL
Starts at New Horizon Centre cafe, CR4 1LT
 FREE
Sat 3rd Aug  1pm RAYNES PARK
Starts at Waitrose, Raynes Park, SW20 0BS
 FREE
Sat 3rd Aug  5pm WIMBLEDON
Starts at Elys, Wimbledon SW19 4DP
 FREE
Tue 6th Aug  8pm Arcola Theatre – Indoor Seated Version
24 Ashwin St, Dalston, London E8 3DL
Book at:
Arcola Theatre
Wed 7th Aug  8pm Arcola Theatre – Indoor Seated Version
24 Ashwin St, Dalston, London E8 3DL
Book at:
Arcola Theatre
Thu 8th Aug  5pm WANDSWORTH TOWN
Starts at Southside Shopping Centre, SW18 4TQ
 FREE
Fri 9th Aug  1pm MITCHAM
Starts at Morrisons, Mitcham, CR4 2JS
 FREE
Sat 10th Aug  1pm CLAPHAM JUNCTION
Starts at ASDA, 204 Lavender HIll, Battersea, SW11 1JG
 FREE
Sat 10th Aug  5pm WIMBLEDON VILLAGE
Starts at Bayley & Sage, 60 High Street, Wimbledon, SW19 5EE
 FREE
Tue 13th Aug  1pm MORDEN
Starts at Oxfam, 31 London Road, Morden, SM4 5HT
 FREE
Tue 13th Aug  5pm TOOTING BROADWAY
Starts at Tooting Market, Tooting High Street, SW17 0SN
 FREE
Wed 14th Aug  1pm ROEHAMPTON 
Starts at Roehampton Library, 2 Danebury, Ave, SW15 4HD
 FREE
Wed 14th Aug  5pm WIMBLEDON
Starts at Elys, Wimbledon SW19 4DP
 FREE
Blog

What is Grimeborn?

The Arcola (Dalston)

Grimeborn is the annual opera festival at one of London’s coolest theatres, The Arcola. Over the last ten years, the festival has become the home for adventurous takes on familiar classics, resurrections of forgotten gems, and premieres of brand new works. This year there are no less than 16 productions. There are £12 tickets available for each one. It’s cheap, it’s accessible – and it’s mindblowing when you realise how much there is to the opera world. 

Don’t take our word for it. Here are some examples that we can’t wait for:

Bringing back unknown operas to life – like Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha

Somehow Scott Joplin, the ‘King of Ragtime’, is only known for his famous piano tune The Entertainer. But then you hear about an American opera-musical like this, entirely ahead of its time, entirely relevant still – and with a title like Treemonisha… well, you just kinda have to go!

See also Aaron Copland’s Twelve Poems by Emily Dickinson.

Radical takes on opera classics – like Die Fledermaus

Our very own artistic director Jo Turner and composer Leo Geyer return with a new take of Strauss’ classic. Working with designer Marina Hadjilouca and lighting designer Jack Weir, Baseless Fabric will bring our street opera indoors for two performances only, for an entirely new take on our style of relevant, irreverent opera re-imagining. Find out more here. Read more

Blog

Making Opera With Young People

Every two weeks, director Elen and musical director James lead a session in Cranmer Primary School. We chatted to Elen about what they’ve been working on.

Baseless Fabric Theatre workshop with primary school group – Wimbledon Foundation

Tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to at Cranmer.

Since January, James (the musical director) and myself have been working with year 5 and 6 students from Cranmer Primary School. We’ve been devising scenes. We’ve written and composed music. We’ve used improvisation techniques to adapt the characters from Die Fledermaus.

It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, not just because we’ve facilitated these young people in creating their own performance, but we’ve also witnessed their confidence grow and creative ideas flourish. Read more