THE MAD KING (2021)
Composing a one-minute-opera
In two workshops, we turned secondary school students into librettists and composers of their very own one-minute opera. We challenged them to work like true avant-gardistes. To inspire them, we discussed the rise of experimental music in the 20th century, and showed excerpts from our production of The Mad King. We choose 'This isolation drives me mad (?)' as an appropiate theme for this corona year. The students wrote about their own experiences during the lockdown, devised a musical setting and noted it in a graphic score. Then, it was up to the workshop teacher - an opera singer - to carry the mini-opera’s out. The students were in charge of the musical accompaniment with everyday objects fitting the theme, including clicking computer mouses and rapid corona tests. At the end of the second workshop, all compositions were recorded. You can listen to the one-minute operas in this playlist.
OPERA MELANCHOLICA (2020)
In the preparatory lessons, we explored the theme of the production: depression and melancholy. We started with an introduction on the main idea of Opera Melancholica. This was followed by a creative writing lesson, in which the students were encouraged to write about the effect it has when one doesn’t feel too good about oneself. At the venue, during the introduction of the Anatomical Theatre of the Psyche, short text fragments of the students were recited on stage. The New European Ensemble framed the reciting with wonderful melancholy music. What gems we heard! And what a touching insight into the connection that they felt with this subject.
"I want them off, the weights around my ankles
They've been there for a long time
What was it like again, to walk without difficulty?
I want to get rid of the locks on my heart
Locked up and alone
What was it like, when I could still feel?
It must be filled, that emptiness in my life
I run away from the gaping hole, which is my best friend
Somehow it feels all too familiar
Do I really want to get rid of it?"
VIVALDI – DANGEROUS LIAISONS (2019)
A brand new baroque opera with an education project in which the students had to put themselves in the set designer's shoes. Their assignment was to design a prop for this production: an extravagant cake for a large table full of lavish delicacies. Of course the cake had to match the theme and the overall design of the opera. The students also had to consider size, light design, transport and sturdiness. After this introduction, the cakes were actually manufactured in a workshop brimming with joy. Foam board, filling material, glitter paper, all kinds of decoration material and large amounts of glue were used to craft extravagant cakes. The most beautiful and appropriate cakes were used in the first act of the opera. The other ones were on display in the foyer during the intermission. What fun for the students, who of course attended the performance, to discover their very own creations on stage!
(Singing) mourners during the prologue
Shakespeare's most famous play begins just after the death of Hamlet's father. We designed a prologue to this opera adaptation of Hamlet, to be executed in the foyer. Just before the doors to the hall open, the funeral procession of the old king passed through the theatre amidst the waiting audience. A local amateur choir and the students performed (an adaptation of) a funeral march from the opera, accompanied live by a brass ensemble. Others stood along the route as mourners and placed flowers on the coffin as the procession passed. The students' solemn dedication to this ceremony even brought tears to the eyes of some members of the audience.
In two preparatory workshops at their schools, the students were introduced to the story of young prince Hamlet and they rehearsed the funeral march (in two voices), which was sung in French. In the afternoon prior to the performance a dress rehearsal was held at the venue, with the students, the choir and the brass ensemble. In the evening – right after their part in the prologue – the students attended the opera.