Baseless Fabric: Open Opera in Merton and Wandsworth
Behind the scenes of the street opera coming to Wandsworth and Merton this summer
In August 2019 Baseless Fabric Theatre will unveil its new production of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus re-imagined as a street opera. Bringing opera to all, performances will take place in different locations across Merton and Wandsworth with scenes popping up in shops, pubs, libraries and even supermarkets enabling everyone to experience high quality professional opera for free.
Funded by Wimbledon Foundation’s new Arts and Community Engagement Fund, Arts Council England, Merton Council and the Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust, this production follows on from the success of Baseless Fabric Theatre’s two previous Merton street operas, Drifting Dragons (2016) and Cosi Fan Tutte (2017 & 2018).
As well as providing high street opera across Merton and Wandsworth, the team runs an extensive outreach programme. This includes working with local schools and offering short indoor sessions for elderly lunch clubs at venues including Wimbledon Guild and Age UK Wandsworth, meaning those not physically able to follow the performances down the high street are able to hear professional opera up close. Artistic director Joanna Turner explains more…
Where can we see Baseless Fabric Theatre’s street opera? Our free promenade high street performances are taking place between 1 and 14 August across Merton and Wandsworth. Exact performance locations will be announced soon on our website, social media and to our mailing list.
“Scenes will be popping up across Merton and Wandsworth, in shops, pubs, libraries and even supermarkets.”
What can audiences expect? Our street opera performances are a bit like a flash mob but on a small scale and with professional singers, instrumentalists and creative team. So they are dressed just as normal people on the high street today but then start performing a scene in a supermarket, pub, library etc. Some of our audiences turn up specifically to see the show and follow the story around the high street and some people are surprised that the person next to them in the fruit aisle suddenly starts singing!
Die Fledermaus is a hugely fun, often silly story with some brilliant characters and very catchy tunes. Die Fledermaus means ‘The Revenge of the Bat’ but in our modern version Bat Man may play a role instead! People are free to watch just a short section or follow the whole story around the town centre (which will be about an hour).
Where are some of the most unusual places you’ve played? We’ve really enjoyed performing in supermarkets – next to the fish counter in Waitrose Raynes Park and next to the checkouts in both Morrison’s Wimbledon and Mitcham were some favourites!
Which schools are you currently working with? We have after school opera clubs running at two schools – Cranmer Primary Mitcham and St John Bosco College Battersea – that have been meeting up fortnightly since January and working on their own ‘parallel productions’ of Die Fledermaus. This will culminate in their own spin-off performances at the beginning of August and the groups coming to see the professional production as well. We have also been providing free school ‘opera taster’ workshops to eight schools across both boroughs this summer.
How can readers get involved? Our singers and instrumentalists are all trained professionals working at the major UK opera companies and we are fully cast for this production but this year we are providing a training opportunity for three young brass instrumentalists to join us as a brass band (aged 16-25) and we also always have opportunities for volunteers of any age to help out our stage management team at the performances.