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Arts Management: Producing a lockdown opera

The MA Arts Management course is unique because of its vocational focus. Students leave the College as resilient, work-ready graduates that can achieve success in a fast paced and ever-changing industry.

Guest blogger and recent graduate Eleanor Benson showed how she put her producing skills to good use when as a student last year she conceived and creatively produced an opera project, rising to the challenges that Covid brought…

Producing an opera in lockdown

As an Arts Management student at RWCMD some of the aspects that I loved about being part of the College community was its spirit of collaborating across departments and having access to its fantastic breadth of talented fellow creatives.
Eleanor BensonArts Management student

This particularly came to the fore when I produced an exciting new opera project in lockdown. The Fulfilment of Ill-Conceived Designs by RWCMD composition grad Luciano Williamson is an epic, darkly-comic opera was written especially for the 2020 student composition festival Atmospheres and was set to be one of the most ambitious events of the festival weekend.

While sadly the staged production was unable to take place due to the coronavirus pandemic I was determined to realise the production in an alternative form.

So thanks to RWCMD’s vibrant creative community and collaborative ethos I was able to put together a revised, illustrated radio-opera, collaborating with students and graduates across the Music, Opera, Composition, Design, Arts Management and Opera Directing departments.

In this revised production, stunning, modern illustration meets a colourful, energetic musical score.

How we did it

To bring this 40-minute show to life we recorded and mastered a 23-piece orchestra remotely in lockdown, and assembled a team of over 30 enthusiastic and dedicated instrumentalists, vocalists, illustrators, designers, directors, composition and arts management students as well as recent graduates.

Working so closely with artists across the different disciplines and departments was a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Having the opportunity to get stuck into ambitious, multi-disciplinary projects in this way is a real highlight of studying at RWCMD, and certainly prepares students for working in the industry after graduating.
Eleanor Benson

From the perspective of a producer, it was exciting (and reassuring!) to know that there was an endless pool of talented creatives who would always be willing to collaborate and get involved in new projects. Being able to network in this way is invaluable, not just for the purpose of one’s studies within the College, but also for future projects.

When producing this opera throughout lockdown, members of the orchestra and cast also expressed how grateful they were to have the opportunity to come together remotely, and be involved in a new creative project, at a time when the majority of concerts and performances were not taking place.

Collaborating with outstanding creatives across the disciplines also ensures excellence, and I am proud that every aspect of this production was executed to a very professional standard.
Eleanor Benson

The Fulfilment of Ill-Conceived Designs is a chilling Neo-Faustian chamber opera, and a twisted, arresting story of compromised morals and unexpected consequences: Eager to have a child but unable to do so, Chris and Johanna respond to a mysterious advert from a sleazy salesman offering mail-order designer babies. Years later on their daughter Eliza’s 18th birthday, they learn a valuable lesson: always read the small print.

The Fulfilment of Ill-Conceived Designs is available to watch on YouTube now, where you can also view the trailer.

Read more about Luciano Williamson here.

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