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Glyndebourne’s new community opera for the digital age to premier

  • Date: 11 February 2013
  • Area: South East
Orchestra rehearsing

Imago, Glyndebourne, 2013. Credit: Courtesy of Glyndebourne

Arts Council England National portfolio organisation, Glyndebourne, is premiering Imago, a new, intergenerational community opera on 7 March.

Imago is supported with a £100,000 Arts Council's England Grants for the arts award, made specifically to Glyndebourne's education department.

Composer Orlando Gough, Librettist Stephen Plaice, and Director Susannah Waters, have produced an opera that brings together the generations, both in performance and storyline.

Imago is the first full-length opera composed by Orlando Gough. Performers between the ages of 16 to 70 join in a work that explores the digital age through the personas of Elizabeth, an elderly person in a nursing home, and the 15-year old Rufus. A 70-strong amateur chorus from the local community will be sharing Glyndebourne's main stage with professional singers, joined by The Aurora Orchestra and the region's most talented young instrumentalists.

The plot revolves around an online game that allows its players to create avatars of their ideal selves. The avatars of Elizabeth and Rufus develop a friendship which defies age and the division of generations. The libretto explores the impact of the digital and internet age on society and its individuals. The audience will be invited to question how they would live if they were given a second life, who would they be and what would they look like? The creative team are working with digital artists to produce holograms on stage projecting the characters in a cyber-world.

Auditions for singers and instrumentalists from the community took place at the end of 2012. The project aims to to develop aspiring singers, with the participants now engaged in an intensive period of rehearsing and performing. Some of the chorus have been involved in this kind of performance before, if at a less profesional level, and there are others for whom reading a score is a novel experience. The rehearsals mirror the process carried out by professional performers at Glyndebourne in creating world-class productions and the opera will benefit from all the same resources as any full scale opera produced at Glyndebourne. This contemporary opera explores a range of musical styles.

By offering less expensive tickets and exploring digital technologies, Glyndebourne are looking to encourage new audiences through their doors, particularly young people and those who have not experienced opera before. Imago is the most recent initiative from Glyndebourne's education department and a performance specifically for schools on 6 March will introduce the younger generation to the art form.  Offering these opprtunities to children and young people broadens their horizons, for example learning a musical instrument, singing in a choir, drawing, dancing - taking part in the arts improves children's performance across the curriculum.

Orlando Gough, Imago composer, says: 'The fact that a large part of Imago takes place in a kind of 'Second Life' means that it looks and sounds very different from a 19th century opera. It's very vivid, unpredictable, slippery. People can appear and disappear instantaneously, can die and come back to life, and their voices can change and disintegrate and revive.'

Sally Abbott, Regional Director, South East, Arts Council England says: 'Glyndebourne's latest community opera Imago unites the country's leading artists with the region's aspiring talent, offering over 70 musicians and singers the chance to perform on their world famous stage. The Arts Council is pleased to support this production through our open access Grants for the arts scheme, which invests National Lottery money to support activities that engage people in the arts and helps artists and arts organisations with their work. We hope that audiences young and old will enjoy this fresh new production, which mixes opera with the exciting new territory of gaming, youth culture and digital technology.'

Glyndebourne's Imago, 7-9 March.
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