Urban Operas


In 2008, our artistic director Tom was invited onto the Royal Opera House’s iconic Write An Opera programme. This extraordinary project, which was an annual event until 2015 and had been developed for over thirty years, taught teachers and community group leaders a specific, multi-faceted set of techniques that would enable them to go back to their groups of participants (schoolchildren, youth groups, dramatic societies) and create with them every single element of their own brand new opera. From developing the themes to writing the libretto, experimenting with instruments to composing their own score, dramatic exercises to performing all the principal and chorus roles, basic drawing techniques to designing sets and costumes, the participants would themselves write, compose, design, build, make, conduct, perform, light, stage manage, advertise and even usher their own performance of their own unique show. 

Tom went back to lead the programme for the next two years. In 2009 he was invited to direct and lead the ROH’s ambitious plan for the community of Thurrock to create and perform their own opera which would launch the ROH’s brand new state-of-the-art production park. Using Write An Opera techniques, the team worked with a vast array of groups and individuals from institutions such as schools, colleges and dance clubs and through community workshops for more than a year, culminating in a critically acclaimed and groundbreaking site-specific performance of a brand new opera, Ludd and Isis. Showcasing the work of hundreds from the local community, and working with a roster of international singers, dancers and artists, including a 120-strong community chorus, all of whom had participated in its creation, it told the story of two ancient gods of the Thames, and their titanic battle over the competing rights of industry, technology and culture, and was called by Opera Magazine ‘one of the Royal Opera House’s grandest achievements’.

Now in 2019, Tom has been invited to work with jazz musician/composer Pete Wiegold and the entire city of Philadelphia in the US to draw together people and elements from every strand of society in a huge spectacular ROAROTORIO. With huge puppets, stationed in four separate districts of the city for a full week leading up to the event itself, and acting as the central focus for cultural and community events, the final day would see the puppets slowly stand and begin to walk to Independence Square, surrounded by hundreds of performers, dancers, choirs and acts, where they would be welcomed by a 100ft Benjamin Franklin and an extraordinary musical event would take place celebrating human rights across the world. 

MTFA’s Urban Opera project will now bring this exciting idea in operatic form to UK cities. Opera has a unique ability to draw together a multitude of different elements and people in a storytelling event that can integrate, identify and inspire huge communities. Urban Operas will bring together large numbers of people and groups of all ages and backgrounds from across cities (think Swansea, Middlesborough, Coventry, Glasgow, Belfast, London or Luton) for a period of a year, working with exciting artists and creatives and producing an urban spectacular which will express and provide a platform for the whole community. 

Think Gareth Malone combined with his equivalent in theatre. Acting, dancing, physical movement combined with singing, in shows created by the participants themselves.  

If you are interested in being involved, in any capacity, we want to hear from you! Contact us here.