Launch of military-themed Sunderland opera + how you can take part

An opera based on the true life tales of North East military personnel has been launched in Sunderland - and you could help bring it to life.

Monday, 22nd October 2018, 3:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd October 2018, 3:26 am
Director Annie Rigby and writer Jacob Polley

To mark the Great War armistice centenary and 100 years since the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, which was the famous composer’s response to the war, Opera Sunderland have unveiled their piece, The Soldier’s Return.

Director Annie Rigby has already interviewed many North East veterans and serving military about conflicts through the decades, which has informed the narrative of the piece, and Jacob Polley has written the libretto. Now it’s up to the people of Sunderland to give the opera its voice.

In the months leading up to the performance in November 2019, schools, groups and individuals will be able to take part in workshops with a view to performing in the opera at Sunderland Minster.

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Director Annie Rigby and writer Jacob Polley

It follows the success of MIRACLE! An Opera of Two Halves which premiered in Sunderland in 2015 and Opera Sunderland has brought together many of the same artistic team, including artistic director Alison Barton, award-winning composer Marcos Fernandez-Barrero, director Annie Rigby and musical director Marco Romano.

Annie said: “It’s a professional creative team and production, with the community involved in the performance. It’s been incredible to hear people’s stories across a breadth of conflicts and military experiences. What’s interesting is that veterans often talk about being at home and thinking back to the conflict, but when they are serving all they can about is home. So they’re never entirely rested in either place.”

Jacob said: “The libretto has been made out of interviews with veterans, of two or three generations. I was struck by the power of what veterans had to say and the ways they said it. I didn’t do much but arrange this material in what I thought was the best shape to evoke the matter and spirit of what we’d heard. That the work we’ve made is so moving and strong I hope is testament to the experience of those veterans and their willingness to talk to us and take part.”

He added: “It’s interesting too that the conflicts become part of the fabric of our society. You can see that in the memorial in Sunderland, it becomes part of our towns and cities.”

Opera Sunderland charity - Composer Marcos Ferndandez-Barrero, Writer Jacob Polley, Artistic Director Alison Barton, Annie Rigby and Musical Director Marco Romano

Alison Barton said: “You don’t need to have any experience at all, we’ll train you up if you want to get involved. So come along and have a crack.”

The commission is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and as with all of Opera Sunderland’s work, The Soldier’s Return is about local people taking part – from sharing their stories, to workshops and performance opportunities.

The company plans to involve as many local residents as possible, including offering free singing roadshows in partnership with The Cultural Spring, and schools workshops.

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Artistic Director Alison Barton