Why, Ben, why?
People keep asking me why we’re doing it. Are we mad?
It might’ve simply been Jean-Luc Picard who said “Why does a painter paint? Why does a sculptor sculpt?”
In 2011 we were founded when the late Robert Presley said “Let’s do Rheingold, I wanna be Alberich”. Sure, why not? After all, Rheingold is only 2 hours long, there‘s no chorus, and we have a venue (the ever generous, patient and understanding St John‘s Fulham). The only problem being Rheingold is just a prelude - the first of four long evenings for cast and audience that make up Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Despite most folk saying it couldn’t be done we built it up, one opera at a time, until we culminated in performances of 2 complete cycles in 2014. Since then we’ve done three Verdi operas, and Der fliegende Holländer among others, and they were all massive and worthwhile efforts. 2018’s Don Carlo was particularly big - 5 acts of Verdi at his dramatic and music peak, centred around an „Auto da Fé“ involving the full cast, chorus, and the small matter of burning a group of Flemish Deputies to death. Yes, all in a church.
It‘s fair to say we‘ve got previous.
Almost nothing we do is what you would expect from a UK fringe opera company. So in that instance Die Meistersinger becomes the next logical step. It’s not a piece a fringe company would usually undertake, but it is absolutely a thing that we can absolutely do. We have the singers and we have the ambition.
And nobody dies.
I love pretty much all opera - I love the art form, and I love that it is somewhat bonkers that we spend our time telling these fantastical stories about love, death, people being nice to each other, people being awful to each other. My favourite operas though are those that are joyous. I’ll cover the challenging aspects of Meistersinger in another post - people say that it has an anti-Semitic streak; there is the spectre of Hitler hanging over it - however, more than anything else, this is an opera about how wonderful art is, and how it can help to bring about love and joy.
So that is why we’re doing it.
As Robin Williams once said: “Keep your little bit of madness, it’s all you’ve got”.