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MA Opera Directors direct one act operas

From London fashion week to a game of chess, this years socially distanced opera productions demonstrated the creativity of our MA opera directors, as Strings student Rosie Olver reports:

RWCMD’s opera directing course is the only one of its kind in the UK, and this year students Fleur Snow and Madeleine Brooks worked against the odds to direct creative adaptations of two one-act Baroque operas.

Venus and Adonis

Madeleine, who directed Venus and Adonis, decided to set the one-act work at London fashion week, working with designer Emma Boomer to bring her highly original concept to life. Madeleine described the inspiration behind her ideas:

‘When we were first planning the project I was really struck by how the opera talks about ugliness and beauty. So we thought the fashion world would be a really good setting.

We used Anna Wintour or Miranda Priestly as inspiration for Venus and it all grew from there.’
Madeleine BrooksRWCMD opera directing student
‘We originally designed a socially distanced production, but when the new restrictions of six metres between singers were introduced it had to change a lot.

We used the whole hall, with the chorus positioned in the audience seating.’
Madeleine BrooksRWCMD opera directing student

Dido and Aeneas

Fleur also found innovative ways to present her production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas while adapting to new restrictions:

‘We ended up going with the concept of chess, where the gods are playing chess and the characters are the pieces. This concept worked really well because the idea of two teams, good and bad, is really clear cut in this opera. Also social distancing meant we required a very careful plot of moves.’

Finding creative solutions to new restrictions

Fleur describes the surprisingly positive outcomes of working in line with new social distancing restrictions:

‘Because it’s so rare to get to do this at the moment the energy in the room has been phenomenal. There’s been a renewed sense of purpose and pride in the work we are doing, and all the way along its been the most positive room to work in.’

‘It’s been re-energising to be back in rehearsals, bouncing ideas off one another and creating this world together. With social distancing preventing us from being physically close it was odd at first.

However, we all worked past that quickly and it has been such a great time.’
Marienella PhillipsRWCMD student

MA Opera Directing at RWCMD

RWCMD is the only institution in the UK to offer an MA Opera Directing course. The role of a director is an extremely creative and collaborative one, so the course offers it’s students the opportunity to work across departments as Madeleine explains:

‘The course is completely tailored. In our first term we were able to attend classes from all parts of the College such as musical theatre, acting and design, as well as working with singers and musicians.

We were the only people to see every side of the College. Sort of amazing. When I first decided I wanted to direct operas, I asked a lot of people for advice and everyone told me that there is no path, you just have to find a way. But when I saw this course it seemed so perfect. It provided that path.’
Madeleine BrooksRWCMD Student

As well as working on projects within the College, the course, which is part of the David Seligman Opera School, allows students to work closely with Welsh National Opera and complete an industry placement with a professional UK opera company.

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