A Dartington dispatch: A look at the Write an Opera creative process
Education Officer Kate Hodson gives us her dispatch from Dartington Hall in Devon, where this year's Write an Opera course is being held.
“Keep it Simple!”
“If you chop a rabbit in half you need a slug!”
“Cue vigorous fringing!”
If you wandered past Studio One at Dartington Hall this week, it’s very likely you would hear these baffling phrases being called out. The studio has been overtaken by teachers involved in the Royal Opera House’s Write an Opera course as part of the Dartington International Summer School (DISS).
The teachers arrived on Saturday from across the UK and Europe to start their journey to write, design, produce and perform an opera together by the end of the week. In September they will return to school and will form an opera company with their students and begin the process of writing, designing and producing a complete opera.
Every so often you will hear the Write an Opera mantra “You are your students”, reminding the teachers that for this week only, they are experiencing the processes from their students’ standpoint.
The schedule is extremely intense and diverse, with the teachers working 9am – 9pm every day with the professional team of designer, lighting designer, composer and director to cover all aspects of the process.
So far, in just four days, the group have chosen a theme, created characters, written a libretto, and begun composing some of the music that will feature in the opera. They have devised an imaginative way of notating the music score using animals such as rabbit (crochets) and slugs (rests) and every morning and afternoon they sing together to develop their confidence and inspire them with new songs to take back into the classroom. On Wednesday night, the group tackled lighting design with our resident ‘lampy’ Nick, working with low tech everyday lighting such as table lamps, torches and overhead projectors, as well as creating some brilliant ideas for lighting scenes.
Today the teachers are in a flurry of materials, paints and musical notation as they prepare for the premiere of their opera Cold Love, which will be performed this evening. Roles have been assigned from stage manager, Head of Costume to Music Director and set designer. Everyone is taking their responsibilities very seriously working under the Direction of Tom Guthrie. Hopefully they won’t cut their rabbits in half or play in their slugs!
Photo: Tom Nelson