Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Independent Opera

Independent Opera were founded to give young singers good professional experience at the beginning of their careers. In 2006 they performed Handel's Orlando in the Lilian Bayliss Theatre at Sadlers Wells, in a staging by their young Artistic Director Alessandro Talevi. In the audience one evening was Dame Anne Evans, who was sufficiently impressed to offer to teach one of the cast members; unfortunately the young singer in question could not afford to take lessons from Dame Anne.

Out of this came the idea of the Independent Opera Scholarships and Fellowships which are awarded annually to singers, designers and directors a breathing space in the gap between college and secure employment.

At a press conference yesterday, Independent Opera introduced their scholarships as well as their forthcoming production at Sadlers Wells – an enticing double bill of operas by Elizabeth Maconchy (The Sofa and The Departure). One of the speakers at the press conference was counter tenor Christopher Ainslie, who appeared as Medoro in Orlando and also appeared in the London Handel Festival's performances of Poro this year. He spoke candidly about the financial problems that singers could face when leaving college, getting prestige engagements for 2009 does not pay for today's rent. His receipt of the Independent Opera fellowship and scholarships has given him a breathing space to focus on training and planning. The stress of his financial situation was threatening to affect his voice and he had started to consider engagements which would have been less than ideal for his vocal development.

Independent Opera will be repeating Orlando in June 2008 at the Wigmore Hall (in concert) and in Prague in 2009 (fully staged). Though Sadlers Wells is their permanent base, they have been forging links with the Wigmore Hall and Matthew Rose has been awarded the Wigmore Hall Independent Opera voice fellowship.

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