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Shadwell takes its place at pocket opera's top table

London's innovative young opera company raises funds for its future projects

Shadwell Opera's production of Philip Glass's In the Penal Colony - June 2014
© Nick Rutter

Among London's unsung heroes are a dizzying array of enterprising small professional opera companies, some of whom have managed to achieve a higher profile than others. The omnipresent OperaUpClose needs the least introduction, of course, thanks in no small part to its well-oiled publicity machine; but it has more rivals in town than you might think – for instance Fulham Opera, who improbably staged the entire Ring cycle last year, and Hampstead Garden Opera whose production of Britten's Albert Herring opens this week at Highgate's Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

Shadwell Opera started business around the same time as OperaUpClose and Albert Herring was one of its own early successes. More recently, a production of Philip Glass's first Kafka opera, In the Penal Colony, was particularly well reviewed last June and brought Shadwell to wider notice than it had achieved hitherto, while earlier this year Channel Four broadcast two short opera films by the company.

Shadwell Opera is currently organising a series of fundraising concerts, the biggest of which will take place at Shoreditch Town Hall next Tuesday, 18th November at 7.45pm. Sopranos Sarah-Jane Lewis and Alice Rose Privett will sing Ravel's Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé and Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire, while Jenny Stafford and Love Ssega will narrate a complete performance of Walton's Façade. Finnegan Downie Dear will conduct.

In a commendable spirit that's not always emulated elsewhere in the opera world, Shadwell Opera (which performs in English) markets its work squarely towards younger audiences, which is why it makes affordability its USP – hence the need to raise money. Proceeds from next Tuesday's concert will be used to fund future opera projects, notably the company's forthcoming production of Into the Little Hill, composer George Benjamin's first operatic collaboration with playwright Martin Crimp who was also his librettist for Written on Skin.

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