23 October 2020
Live theatre is one of the industries most impacted by COVID-19. Here in the UK, many remain closed, and the period of closure has been longer than anticipated. MOTHandRUST loves the performing arts and we can’t wait for the theatres to be able to fully reopen, though of course this may not be for some time.In the meantime, there are so many ways you can show your support, in addition to donations, that are always appreciated.1. View productions online- There are many professionally-recorded live theatre productions available to watch online—typically for just a small fee. Can't find anything to watch on Netflix? This is often better!- We've been working with one of our favourite London theatres for over six years now, the Unicorn Theatre—it's new free digital offering is a testament to how creative, flexible and resourceful it is. I loved Anansi the Spider:2. Reach out to your local theatre- Remember that most smaller community theatres lack the resources to offer professionally-recorded productions or Zoom performances and other online experiences.- Reach out to see what kind of programming your local theatre can offer, and find out how you can help. Many are finding creative solutions to stay in business and need support.3. Buy from the theatre shop- For example, buy a play transcript or theatre soundtrack. This is a great way to both support artists’ work, and it is often overlooked. Listening to an original cast recording of a musical soundtrack, or reading a play, can really enrich the performance when you do see it live.- Another one of our long-term clients, the Actors' Benevolent Fund, sells its famous Christmas cards, which helps the Fund continue its vital work in supporting actors, actresses and stage managers experiencing hardship due to illness, injury or old age, as as well COVID-19:4. Buy tickets to a live performance- Socially-distanced indoor performances are allowed to take place as per UK government COVID-19 regulations, such as audience members seated together in bubbles. If you are able, coming back to the see a show is a great way to support our theatres.- When it reopens in January, Wilton's Music Hall will only have 109, rather than 250 seats. In the many years we have been working with them, we have not known it to have such dramatically reduced capacity. As Wilton's says, this will "make the experience even more magical than usual."- Current closure dates for SOLT member theatres may be found here:- Is your theatre not selling tickets yet? You can buy Theatre Tokens to see a show once it reopens:
14 February 2020
I’ve been reading about Carmen lately, as I will be seeing it staged at the Royal Opera House next weekend. What really stood out to me was the story of its composer, Georges Bizet. His story is that of many successful people: repeated failures, over and over and over—yet he never gave up, and he never compromised.
Bizet was recognised as an outstanding pianist at a very early age and probably could have had a successful career as a concert pianist. But this is not what he wanted. He rarely played piano in public. What he wanted to be was a composer. Not just a composer, but one of original, genre-breaking works.
Unfortunately, the state-subsidised opera houses in Paris of the late 1800s preferred the established classical repertoire to the works of newcomers. They only wanted wholesome entertainment that would please the masses, not challenge them.
So, to earn a living, Bizet arranged and transcribed the music of others. Despite the long hours this type of work required, he still managed to write many keyboard and orchestral compositions in what spare time he had—most of which were largely ignored.
Finally, two of his operas managed to reach the stage (Les Pêcheurs de Perles and La Jolie Fille de Perth)—these were not successes. Several competition entries, including a cantata and a hymn composed for the Paris Exhibition of 1867, were also unsuccessful.
In June 1871, he was appointed as chorus-master at The Opéra, which was a much better day job. However, he either resigned or refused to take up the position as a protest against what he thought was the director's unjustified closing of Ernest Reyer's opera Erostrate after only two performances.
In 1873, Bizet began composing Don Rodrigue. He played a piano version to a select audience that included the Opéra's principal baritone Jean-Baptiste Faure, hoping that the singer's approval might influence the directors of the Opéra to stage the work. This was a success—until the Opéra burned to the ground and the directors set Don Rodrigue aside.
Still, Bizet got right back up and started working on Carmen, persevering though Opéra-Comique's management concerns about the suitability of this risqué story. Then early 1874, Adolphe de Leuven, the co-director of the Opéra-Comique most bitterly opposed to the Carmen project, resigned and the controversial piece was able to go into production.
And what a production it was. The orchestra had difficulties with the score, finding some parts unplayable. The chorus declared some of their music impossible to sing and were dismayed that they had to act as individuals, smoking and fighting onstage rather than merely standing in line as was traditionally done. Attempts by the Opéra-Comique to modify parts of the action which they deemed improper were ongoing. Bizet fought hard to retain his vision, though resolving all these issues delayed the first night.
Its breaking of conventions shocked and scandalized the audiences. Much of the press comment was predictably negative. The heroine was seen as an amoral seductress rather than a woman of virtue, the music had a lack of melody, and so on.
Carmen would go on to become one the most popular and frequently performed works in the entire opera repertoire. Musically, the "Habanera" from act 1 and the "Toreador Song" from act 2 are among the best known of all operatic arias.
But to Bizet, Carmen was just another failure: "I foresee a definite and hopeless flop.” Bizet died suddenly of heart failure after the 33rd performance, unaware that the work would achieve international acclaim within the following ten years.
The music critic Harold C. Schonberg surmises that, had Bizet lived, he might have revolutionised French opera. I agree. I’m sure he would have.
15 November 2019
So exciting to get this in the post: a gift of original drawings from our friend and client, Brigitte. They are of costume designs from the musical Oklahoma. So gorgeous.