DARE is committed to thinking innovatively about how, by working together, we can increase public access to learning and creativity. This approach has become particularly important during the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, and exciting ideas emerged at a time when face-to-face activity was on hold.
The launch of Thinking with Opera, a series of podcast conversations between academics and opera practitioners, was launched in July 2020, receiving immediate endorsement in The Guardian.
The first episode, Performing Violence, finds leading art historian and 2020 Holberg Prize Laureate Professor Griselda Pollock in conversation with Opera North’s Dominic Gray about artistic representations of violence, how it is performed in opera, and its implications. Their discussion ranges from Ancient Greece to The Godfather, and focuses on the operas of Puccini and Verdi. It takes in the personal – Professor Pollock’s first experience of opera, seeing Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi at the Royal Opera House – and the political, touching on the performance of problematic works from the canon, and opera in the era of Black Lives Matter. Excerpts from Opera North’s 2018 staging of Madama Butterfly are featured, and accompanying notes link to images, clips and texts discussed.
The Carnivalesque was the theme of the second episode, with filmmaker Daniel Norman and Professor Alan O’Leary discussing everything from Monty Python’s “Mr Creosote” and the [in]famous Otley Run in Leeds to Opera North’s double bill of La vida breve and Gianni Schicchi and Britten’s Peter Grimes. With conversation covering cross-dressing, gross-out humour and a preoccupation with the grotesque, Norman and O’Leary hypothesise about how the carnivalesque offers a release from the constraints of morality and social conventions.
Professor of Music Ed Venn and choreographer Aletta Collins reflect on Thomas Adès and operas of confinement in Episode 3, questioning how music, plot, staging, action, dance and performance combine to produce meaning for an opera audience. Adès’s The Tempest, the premiere of which Collins choreographed in 2004, is of particular interest, with reference also to Powder Her Face (1995) and The Exterminating Angel (2016), which take on a new significance in the era of Covid-19.
Most recently, Poet Laureate and University of Leeds Professor of Poetry Simon Armitage and composer Gavin Bryars discuss what happens when their respective art forms are brought together, chaired by Dr Kimberly Campanello. They each reflect on their lifelong engagement with words and music, and the pleasures and perils of bridging the two disciplines as artists.