Local people who've been homeless and refugees will put on an opera at Middlesbrough Town Hall, hoping to inspire communities throughout Teesside to come together through beautiful music.
After Winter will be performed on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 July 2020 at the Town Hall, and on Sunday 12 at the Ryedale Festival in North Yorkshire. Tickets go on sale in March next year.
The cast will include people who take part in free singing and creative workshops delivered by award-winning charity Streetwise Opera at the Town Hall and at Methodist Asylum Project Middlesbrough in partnership with Depaul UK. These groups, all aged 18 or over, have been homeless or are at risk of homelessness, and come together every week to rebuild their confidence and wellbeing through singing.
They will be joined on stage by world-renowned baritone Roderick Williams OBE, Grammy Award-winning pianist Christopher Glynn, Middlesbrough's own Brodsky Quartet, youth choir Genesis Sixteen and the Ryedale Community Chorus led by Em Whitfield Brooks.
After Winter is an uplifting story of hope. A stranger has arrived in town. He's lost everyone and everything, and is just looking for a place to die. He doesn't know it, but something is about to change.
The production features original music by Austrian composer Franz Schubert, from his famous song cycle Winter Journey, and new pieces by British composer Errollyn Wallen MBE, and it will be directed by English opera director John Fulljames, Artistic Director of the Royal Danish Opera.
The immersive opera, which will also involve staff and students from Teesside University, is staged around the concept of a communal feast, with performers and audience sitting together to share a meal whilst they also build bridges in the community.
Following Middlesbrough's commitment to healthy and sustainable food, ingredients for the meal will be from local producers and sustainable sources in collaboration with the Middlesbrough Food Partnership and Middlesbrough Environment City, a charity that promotes and encourages healthy and sustainable living.
This project is possible thanks to generous funding by Arts Council England, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Foyle Foundation, RVW Trust and the members of Streetwise Opera's Commissioning Circle.
Participants in Streetwise Opera's workshops in Teesside, said:
"We are excited and really looking forward to working in After Winter with these world-class professional artists. Of course we're a bit nervous because we've never taken part in a project like this, but we will work hard and put our hearts and souls into every note we sing, to offer everyone in Teesside an unforgettable performance."
Councillor Mieka Smiles, Middlesbrough Council's Executive Member for Culture & Communities, said:
"I'm thrilled that Streetwise Opera's next major production will take place in Middlesbrough Town Hall. We are strong supporters of Streetwise and we're very lucky to have the organisation in this area."
Jacqueline Thomas of the Brodsky Quartet said:
"We are delighted to be returning to Middlesbrough, where we were formed in the ‘70s amongst the vibrant musical education scene there, for this fantastic production. We have been in the audience for several Streetwise Opera performances and thrilled at the warmth and energy they convey. Errollyn is a long term collaborator of ours and we look forward to working again with her and with Roderick and all the team. Like all String Quartets, Schubert is a composer very close to our hearts and none more relevant to this project: he himself was destitute and all but homeless at the end of his tragically short life."
Baritone Roderick Williams said:
"Even though I am a relative late-comer to performing Schubert's iconic song cycle Winterreise, I have now sung it many times over the past few years, in German and in English, and have come to appreciate and marvel at its mesmeric effect on audiences and performers alike. Like so many artists before me, I want to immerse myself deeper into the experience and wrestle with the profound and sometimes maddening questions this extraordinary work can pose of us. I relish the chance to work amongst collaborative, creative colleagues who can enrich and extend the journey."
John Fulljames, Artistic Director of the Royal Danish Opera, said:
"I have admired Streetwise Opera's work for many years, and I've been impressed by the dedication, the commitment and the authenticity of their performances. I am delighted to work with them in this reimagining of Schubert's Winter Journey. Together, we will make an exciting production that explores the value and the place of compassion in society, and how we come together in our differences to make communities."
Christopher Glynn, Artistic Director of the Ryedale Festival, said:
‘I'm thrilled that Streetwise Opera is partnering with Ryedale Festival to explore Schubert's great song cycle Winter Journey. Streetwise performers and a community chorus from Ryedale will be at the heart of a wonderful team of artists who will together create new music and words that resonate with Schubert's masterpiece. After Winter promises to be a unique and unforgettable experience for audiences across North Yorkshire and Teesside.'
Harry Christophers, Founder and Conductor of The Sixteen, said:
"What an honour to be continuing our partnership with Streetwise Opera and to be involved in their brilliant and important work. Our collaboration on The Passion in 2016 was quite simply life-changing for all of us involved in the project. As a result we made a firm resolution to always keep in touch with Streetwise and we were delighted to be involved in Celebrating Leonardo da Vinci at Sounds Sublime last year. I am therefore so excited that singers from our Genesis Sixteen programme will get the opportunity to have this experience with After Winter."