A page in the Telegraph

The Telegraph Opera Critic Rupert Christiansen applauds a new plan to take the Magic Flute through Africa.

‘Use well the interval” is a line in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius which that splendid young tenor Andrew Staples has taken to heart. “And not only the interval,” he adds, “but also the time I spend on the platform with a score on my lap, staring into space as I wait to get up and sing. It’s a golden opportunity to do some creative and lateral thinking.”
It’s not that he’s worried about his career: it’s busy and thriving, and he’s booked in for leading roles in Così fan tutte at Opera Holland Park in July, and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House next year. But he knows he’d go “slightly crazy” if that was all he did.
So Staples also runs his own company, Vignette Productions, dedicated to flexible and innovative opera stagings. Last year, he directed an “immersive” La Bohème in a vault in east London and next month he joins with Bury Court Opera near Farnham for Rossini’s La Cenerentola. In the summer, Vignette will also mount two baroque oratorios on the theme of sacrifice, presented at Shoreditch Town Hall in the frame of an art installation.
But all this is child’s play compared with the four-month project Staples is planning for 2013-14. It’s currently called Opera for Change, and behind it is the idea of taking an articulated lorry and a couple of coaches containing a company of about 50 singers, musicians and crew on a 5,000-mile journey from Nairobi through the Rift Valley to Cape Town, performing a flat-pack version of Die Zauberflöte.
This is an opera with characters such as the bird-catcher Papageno and the wicked Queen of the Night, whose significance is universal, bearing a plot and message that can easily be related to African styles of musical storytelling and specifically to the fight against HIV and Aids.

“We will make perhaps 10 stops en route, playing for a week or so at each of them and linking up with charities, schools and hospitals,” Staples told me. “We want to make the opera very upbeat and full of good news, based on the idea that conquering fear is always the biggest step towards a better life. But we don’t want it to be just health propaganda: it’s got to have artistic and musical integrity, too, and I’m hoping we can find and use some great young African singers.”
Staples is engagingly enthusiastic and blazingly sincere, but you’d be wrong to think he was wide-eyed or naïve: the project is being properly costed and a business plan assembled. A month-long recce, covering the proposed route, is planned for the end of the year.
Opera for Change will ultimately need something in the region of £3 million, and if the likes of Elton John or Bill Gates could kick in with a third of that sum from their foundations, Staples really believes he can swing it. I only wish I could write him a big cheque myself.

Original article here

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