Alan Edward Williams

Composer/ cyfansoddwr

The Arsonists – a Northern Opera?

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It’s a year since Heritage Opera and an ensemble from the BBC Philharmonic premiered my and Ian McMillan’s The Arsonists. It received huge amounts of coverage in the week leading up to its performance, mainly because of the idea of the portrayal;l of working class characters singing in as close an accent as we could manage to a South Yorkshire one. It wasn’t, of course, the first time working class characters had appeared on the opera stage as the main roles, and not as ‘peasant’ colour – in, say, L’Elisir d’Amore – and Mark Antony Turnage’s Greek used East London working class accents in 1988, but it was at least the first time that a Northern English identity had been portrayed in accent on the operatic stage.

I’m now looking to take it on tour, and will be contacting theatres, rather than opera houses and companies, to find venues. This may in fact mean abandoning the term ‘opera’ altogether. I don’t intend altering the show at all, but it seems likely that the very term ‘opera’ might be likely to put off the very audience we’d intended trying to attract. In the end its a story, which is sung. It has about as much spoken (as oppose to sung) dialogue as a Sondheim musical, and some of the material is definitely song like. But it demands operatic voices and training.

If you know, work in, or maybe even run a suitable 2-300 seat theatre or would like to see it near you, get in touch!

Here’s a trailer:

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