On September 24, 2021, Music Theatre Wales will launch its “New Directions,” an initiative which seeks to redefine opera by collaborating with artists and designers who have not worked in opera until now.
First will be “The House of Jollof Opera,” by writer/composer/performer Tumi Williams and multidisciplinary director and dramaturg Sita Thomas. This work follows a chef Adeola, who uses his specialty vegan dishes to win the heart of Asha a hard-working café owner.
“This project gave me the freedom to work with opera, but in the way that I could work with it, I wanted to bridge the traditions of opera and bring my culture into that context,” Williams said in an official press statement. “I felt challenged making this work with Sita because it represents me, and I wasn’t sure if it was something people wanted to see. Sita and I bounced off each other to make the piece and this creative process has pushed me, and it was new and interesting to have a dialogue with an opera singer.”
Next, on Oct. 8, is “Pride (A Lion’s Roar)” by composer/producer Renell Shaw, and artist/writer Rachel Young, with visuals by Kyle Legall. This work explores themes and experiences of prejudice faced by people of color.
“I’m excited about exploring new ways to fuse musical genres and express narrative,” Shaw noted. “Opera vocalists are powerful and dynamic in a way that is specific to their genre; the idea of taking that sound and respectfully placing it in a world where it may not normally be heard opens up endless possibilities for me.”
Finally, on Oct. 22, will be “Somehow,” by writer/dancer Krystal S. Lowe and composer Jasmin Kent Rodgman. This work explores intimacy and relationships between music and movement, as well as artist and audience.
“With ‘Somehow’ I didn’t want to try to steer the audience to an understanding of the meaning, but to offer music, movement, and voice, allowing them to connect with the character and to craft their own narrative,” Lowe stated. “As a writer and dancer developing my audio description practice, I wanted to achieve an audio description that draws audiences into an intimate space that isn’t crowded but instead leaves room for reflection. The writing for this work was inspired by relationships in my own life, including my relationship with myself. The feeling of being deeply known and understood; connecting with a person or version of self. Elayce and Michael gave us the space, resources, and time to do this work in a programme that is core to MTW’s vision for their company, and it feels essential, authentic, and innovative.”
All three works will be available to watch online for free at Music Theatre Wales’ website.