Thousand Furs Flyer

11th August Thousand Furs Standing Room Only

We have now sold all seats for tonight’s Manchester performance of ‘Thousand Furs’. If you come early there are a very few standing tickets available on the door for £5. See you later!

Kate Smith and Katharine Armitage

The writer is dead: long live the music!

Thousand Furs librettist, Katharine Armitage, writes about her experience of hearing her words brought to life in the first music rehearsal of her first ever opera.

A lot of the rehearsal room discussion is going over my head… It’s music day and so the language is very technical and still slightly alien to a writer’s ears. What I do get, completely, is the music itself. It fits so perfectly with the words, themes, characters and world I tried to write that it feels a bit magical. As if the words had music hiding inside them which is now being pulled out. I think composer Michael might be a magician… All of the music just feels right (even when it’s breaking convention rather deliciously). Now Will (musical director and sorcerer) and the cast are building intricate palaces out of it all. Two palaces to be precise, across which the story is set (it is after all, the great great grandmother of the Cinderella we know so well) and it’s fascinating to see how different these two settings feel now the music shapes them.

It’s always strange to hear words you wrote very privately be spoken and repeated so publicly in rehearsal. It’s even stranger to hear them sung. I have to keep reminding myself that I did write them: the power and skill with which the performers sing the libretto makes it feel so fixed and solid. How could I possibly have made that up? Perhaps it’s like the pain of labour: as soon as the writing is finished you forget what the process was like…. so you’ll be foolish enough to do it again.

At the moment the words are more vehicles for the music as the focus is on tuning, timing and all those intricate ’t’ words that make up a good musical performance. Next week it will switch as the characters are given space to move and expand. At the moment my job is to listen and flag up any words that might have got lost or altered in the transcribing process and to answer (or fail to answer) difficult questions Katherine the director asks me. I’m happy just to listen. Opera, for me, feels like watching an oak tree grow really really fast. One of those time lapse videos (not that a 100 year long time lapse video could exist). It starts incredibly tiny and then sprouts out into this immense and overwhelming sound. The selfish part of me wishes they would just keep singing and not stop to go over things. But I will let the experts do their job.

The writer is dead: long live the music!

After Party Manchester

Buxton Fringe New Writing Award

We are delighted the the Buxton Fringe new writing award has been given to our wonderful colleague Katharine Armitage for After Party.

Have a look at these reviews by Rufus McAllister and Fringe Guru Steven Walker to see what all of the fuss is about.

We’ve had lots of fun performing After Party all over the country this year. Thank you to our amazing cast and team, and to the Oxford Lieder Festival, Salisbury International Arts Festival, Dragonfly Brewery in Acton, International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester, and of course the Underground Venues at Buxton Festival Fringe for hosting us.

We are now looking forward to performing our latest collaboration with Katharine and composer Michael Betteridge, the first of The Midnight Stories, a cycle of three new operas for singer-instrumentalist ensemble. The journey starts with Thousand Furs, we hope you can be there to come along with us.

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“Where did it all go wrong for Cinderella?” Workshops at Camden MIND

Re:Sound Artistic Co-Director Rebecca Lea blogs about our recent workshops in Camden….

Yesterday the Re:Sound team descended on Camden’s MIND centre for the first of our Thousand Furs music and theatre outreach workshops. Working with 10 participants at the centre, we enjoyed a fantastic session of group singing and drama, exploring the music and narrative of the opera.

Workshops are a particularly interesting and rewarding strand of our company’s work. It is always refreshing to explore a piece with a new group of people and to gain new insights into the material. Thousand Furs is based on an older, darker variant of the Cinderella narrative, in which the heroine princess Maria, after mistakenly trying on her dead mother’s wedding ring, is forced to flee an incestuous marriage to her own father and seek her fortune. Our group was vociferous in expressing their outrage at the story’s exposition and much discussion was had as to whether it was, ‘in this age of Yewtree’, even acceptable to ‘tamper’ with this well-loved story in such a way. There was genuine concern as to how audiences might react to such a portrayal.

And yet…. The heroine of this original version is not to be found sweeping stairs, singing to birds and waiting for the arrival of a magical fairy godmother. Instead, and without giving anything away, she is forced to take fate into her own hands, escape an abhorrent situation and use her own wit and cunning (as well as her beauty) to climb the social ladder and achieve the life (and lifestyle) she desires. Despite the murkier beginnings to this ancient tale, the protagonist in this version embodies much more closely our modern vision of heroism (or heroinism…?!) than that portrayed by Disney and it does make one question where down the line, between Thousand Furs and ‘Bibbity Bobbity Boo’, did it all go wrong?

As part of the afternoon, we split into groups and were given the task of writing lyrics, which we set to one of the choruses in the opera and then performed together. The lyrics were to be written in response to the question: what advice would you give Maria, faced with this awkward situation. My group’s ….. ‘seduce the king, steal the ring, replace it with some other bling’, perhaps suggests that they too had come round to the idea of an active heroine, willing to go to extreme measures to secure her own destiny. And this is perhaps why Thousand Furs works well as an actor-musician production. For here there is no magic, no ethereal music wafting up from the pit, rather everything is created directly in front of the eyes of the audience. We see clearly how characters create their own stories and manipulate their own futures, for better, for worse.

We have invited the workshop group to our performance at Tete-a-Tete on the 6th August and look forward to hearing their feedback on the whole performance. Does it end happily? You’ll just have to come and see for yourself….