19th May 2016
Blog Post #3: Battle Festival's Opera
The innovation displayed by groups and individuals working with ROOT 1066 continues to astound me. This week I’ve been introduced to Battle Festival’s Opera – and I’ve found myself inspired by their ingenious navigation of the ‘1066’ theme.
In collaboration with Glyndebourne and the De La Warr Pavillion, Battle Festival are producing a community-based production for ROOT 1066 – entitled PUSH. Rehearsals started in May, and so I spoke to Battle Festival producer Sally Lampitt to learn more.
I think it’s fair to say that opportunities to get involved in opera are not as forthcoming for young people as, for example, sports. I am therefore pleased to learn that Battle Festival and Glyndebourne have a history of working with schools. Sally tells me that they wanted to make PUSH as accessible as possible. Workshop sessions have been offered to nearly 400 children. A call was put out for singers of all abilities to participate – and an open dress rehearsal will be open for young people that were unable to participate fully.
What about the content itself? On asking why the internationally renowned composer and musician Howard Moody was attracted to the project, I became fascinated by the project’s roots and inspiration.
It is inspired by Simon Gronowski – the president of Belgium’s Union of Jewish deportees. In 1943 Simon was pushed from an Auschwitz bound train by his mother – eventually managing to escape to Brussels. Decades later, Simon met Howard after a performance in the same city. Here, Simon discussed his experiences of the Mechelen transit camp. On stating ‘Ma vie n’est que miracles’ – ‘My life is that of miracles’, Howard promised to write an opera about his story.
And how does this link with the ‘1066’ theme? Sally tells me that the narrative does not begin or end with Simon Gronowski; that it is not confined to a timeframe – that it is timeless. Simon’s story acts as a foundation for the narrative to explore accounts of those experiencing refugee/prisoner statuses between 1066 and 2016.
Howard expounds on this: ‘cultures are colliding in so many positive and negative ways and we all find ourselves surrounded by so much that mirrors the build up to the events of 1066. There is no shortage of inspiration to create something new and contemporary.’
Indeed there is not. And how wonderful that this project adopts a contemporary framework to explore the relationship between Then, Now and What Has Been in Between – in a way that actively unites local cultures and communities.
PUSH will premiere at the De La Warr Pavilion on Sat 1 October followed by a semi-staged production at St Mary’s Church, Battle on Sat 8 October.
Battle Festival are still raising funds to support this community project and if you would like to donate click here.