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Commentary

17 Jun 2020

100 artists across 14 countries and 4 continents stage Guildhall School of Music & Drama digital opera double bill

This summer, Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s opera double bill has been transformed from the physical to the digital stage, with the creative team and artists from across the School bringing the productions to life from their homes using digital technology. It is now available to stream for free until Wednesday 1 July 2020.

A 20th-century reimagining of one of the earliest English operas Dido and Aeneas - Purcell’s tragic love story featuring the famous aria Dido’s Lament - is contrasted with Respighi’s La bella dormente nel bosco, a witty take on the Sleeping Beauty story. The School’s production would have been the UK premiere of Respighi’s rarely performed work. All students, staff and guest artists have been working from wherever they have been living during the lockdown, across at least 14 countries and four continents.

From home, the opera’s cast and chorus have captured and filmed their own performances under the virtual direction of director Olivia Fuchs and movement director Victoria Newlyn, which have then been edited by the filmmaker Karl Dixon. Guildhall School instrumentalists have recorded their parts for a multi-track recording of the orchestral scores co-ordinated by conductor and Head of Opera Dominic Wheeler.

The visions of designer takis and lighting designer Jake Wiltshire have been brought to life by Guildhall School staff and students using a range of innovative technology. A 3D model of Silk Street Theatre, produced using cutting-edge lidar scanning technology, was used as the basis for the production under the expert guidance of BILD Studios. All of the behind-the-scenes work to create a regular opera production at Guildhall - construction, costume, lighting, props, scenic art, sound and video production - have been translated to the digital world.

Dominic Wheeler, Head of Opera at Guildhall School says: “ When we started this project, we had to reinvent our way of working so quickly that we felt it would put too much pressure on everyone involved to share the full finished result publicly. However, whilst the process has certainly been a healthy challenge, it has also been exciting and eye-opening. We feel that the students’ enthusiasm and commitment to telling stories meaningfully in such difficult circumstances transcends all the challenges they’ve faced, and makes us proud to share their work with everyone .”

Collaborative and interdisciplinary work is a priority across Guildhall School, and this project has integrated work by more than 100 artists from the Opera, Production Arts, Vocal and Music departments, as well as Guildhall Live Events - an innovative new department set up to act as a conduit between the professional artistic, creative and entertainment industries and the world-class educational practises of Guildhall School.

Dan Shorten, Creative Director of Guildhall Live Events says : " This wonderful cross-School collaborative project is an excellent example of Guildhall’s resourcefulness and ability to adapt. Having firm connections to industry, through initiatives such as Guildhall Live Events, allows for current technical innovation and developments to be instantly implemented into curriculum delivery, and conversely allows our students to work with, and push, our industry partners and the way we work with them commercially.”

The Production Arts department at Guildhall School has long been recognised as providing some of the most innovative vocational training in the UK and beyond, and the School is embracing this chance for students to learn cutting-edge skills and new technology working practises which are vital in today’s theatre and live events industry.

The digital opera double bill is available to watch until 1 July here .

Purcell Dido and Aeneas
Respighi La bella dormente nel bosco

Creative Team

Dominic Wheeler conductor
Olivia Fuchs director
takis designer
Jake Wiltshire lighting designer
Victoria Newlyn movement director

Streaming link: www.gsmd.ac.uk/music/virtual_opera

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