An inspiring new opera, To the Silkwood Tree, wowed audiences during its premiere at Nottingham Contemporary this weekend (16 May).
Addressing themes of hope, exploration and belonging, the sell-out performance was produced by Streetwise Opera and performed by a cast of individuals who have experienced homelessness.
An award-winning charity, Streetwise Opera works with people who have experienced homelessness across the UK and uses the power of music and performance to help them make positive changes in their lives.
Lisa Brooks was one of the cast members who performed to a packed audience of 170 guests and is looking forward to a brighter future.
She said: “Everyone’s put so much work into the show and it felt amazing being on stage and showing what we’ve achieved. I’ve got much more confidence and having the chance to act and sing on stage has been a dream come true.
“The performance has given me a new lease of life and I’ve made so many new friends. The show has given me something to look forward to – I’d love to carry on and be involved in more performances with Streetwise Opera in the future.”
Jim Stephenson played the Traveller, one of the key characters in opera.
He said: “I’ve never done anything like this before so it was pretty nerve-racking but now we’ve finished the performance it feels amazing. I’ll definitely keep coming to the workshops at the Theatre Royal. I’m so much more confident than I was before.”
Matt Peacock MBE, chief executive for Streetwise Opera, said: “We were blown away by the audience’s response to our show and how much demand there was for tickets. It was exciting to see people of all ages and walks of life engaging with a new opera.
“I want to pay tribute in particular to the cast who have helped create a tremendous new piece and performed brilliantly. They have shown that whatever life throws at you, it is possible to achieve great things.
“We could not put on this production without our partnership with Nottingham Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall and Emmanuel House, which both host our regular workshops and rehearsals, and Nottingham Contemporary which hosted this production. Heart-felt thanks also go to the Streetwise staff and the creative and back-stage team who have worked tirelessly.
“The work we do with our performers doesn’t end here – the show is followed by music workshops every week and work towards other performances, projects and progression routes for our group. Check out www.streetwiseopera.org for upcoming events.”
Working across the UK, Streetwise Opera has supported homeless people to perform to audiences at London’s Royal Opera House in a show which has just been nominated for an Olivier Award for ‘Best New Opera Production’.
Streetwise Opera’s workshops take place every Tuesday at Nottingham Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall. Weekly workshops also run locally at Emmanuel House.
Mark Smith from Emmanuel House said he’s seen a real change in the people who take part: “The workshops we’ve been running at Emmanuel House have been really successful. It’s great to see Lisa and others from our group on stage this weekend. They’ve gained so much confidence and achieved so much.”
Written and directed by Hazel Gould, To the Silkwood Tree followed the story of a traveller on a long, uncertain road to an unknown destination. Set to music by established composer John Barber, the opera was able to intrigue, entrance and send audiences away with a lift in their hearts.
Following the performance, innovative and experimental pop band Firefly Burning (featuring composer John Barber on piano) played at the Nottingham Contemporary Café Bar as part of the Saturday night Café.Bar.Live programme.