Two women working to diversify opera in the UK discuss the importance of ‘demystifying’ the art and focusing on the storytelling it offers.
Rison Buchanan and Simone Yvette-Brown are making opera more accessible than classical music to people of all races and backgrounds, as opera houses around the world celebrated their talent for Black History in October. told PA news agency what changes needed to be made to make the genre more accessible. Moon.
Raised in Bedford and now based in New York, Buchanan is the UK’s only black female artistic director.
She has a role in the Pegasus Opera Company, working to “advocate, inspire and educate” the industry, advocating and creating opportunities for artists of African and Asian heritage.
Buchanan said of the challenge of diversifying opera, “You wait to be seated at a table and you realize you have to build your own table.
“And that’s part of the work that Pegasus did, creating its own table.
“My contention is that if you are sponsored by the Arts Council, the people on stage and in the pit should reflect the community you serve. If you are in London Look at the London demographics.”
Buchanan began singing at an early age and recalls listening to her father’s vast record collection, which included Christa Ludwig’s Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody.
She auditioned to be part of the All Black cast at the Opera at Glyndebourne, a prestigious venue in East Sussex, and at 16 was the youngest person ever to be in the Opera House choir.
Buchanan, who later studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and attended a program for young artists at the San Francisco Opera, said he believed in the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by police in Minnesota in May. 2020 changed the industry.
“If George Floyd knew the impact his life sacrifice had on the world, I really think it would have been a big world change,” she said.
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If people come to the opera and see something they enjoy or see someone who looks like them, they are more likely to come again.Allison Buchanan
“The door has always been closed and[in the UK]the idea of diversity on stage has always been very limited.
“After George Floyd died, we got into a difficult, different dialogue with the opera companies. They see things differently visually, and at least they’re doing the right thing. It is.”
Buchanan said Pegasus’ influence was “a 30-year-old company based in Brixton, London, founded by “vocal and bullish tenor” Lloyd Newton, for whom she took over the role of artistic director. It was a no-brainer,” he said.
“To unlock the mysteries of opera, make it accessible to those who don’t necessarily go to opera, and reach out to communities that opera companies tend not to reach out to in terms of influencing, encouraging and supporting singers. I have contributed a lot and I will give them an opportunity,” she said.
“I think that expression needs to be normalized…if people come to the opera and see something they enjoy, or if there are people who look like them, they are more likely to come again.
“And you want to ignite your passion for the art form.”
Simone Yvette Brown, a 30-year-old freelance theater producer and performer from Essex, echoed Ms Buchanan’s sentiment that representation is important to the future of opera.
From November to December, Ms. Yvette-Brown brings together two giants of 18th-century music: Mozart and Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a black conductor and a revolutionary, and from November He is conducting the first part of a concert with Glyndebourne, which will tour nationwide through December. An abolitionist whose music was “erased” by Napoleon during the French Revolution.
“I think there are a lot of stories like this in the history of people who have been silenced because of their race, gender or political affiliation and who have delivered something artistically and historically great,” said Yvette-Brown. rice field.
“And I think[there are]people who can shed light on not only the history of that time, but also our experience today. I think Joseph is definitely one of them.”
“I am often asked why do you think it is important to think about diversifying histories?
“Why would we want to ignore the incredible landscape around us, the contributions of people and the things that might help us move forward?”
From hiring composers to hiring singers, Ibbett-Brown said it was essential to make diversity a “first priority” to reap the benefits.
“Prioritizing it is far more important than how uncomfortable or tricky it is to do it,” she said.
“For example, let’s say you’re doing a show about a South Asian’s life experience in the UK…and you don’t hire a British South Asian to work on that project.
“Will it get better?
“Will it be very accurate? Will it be of high quality? The answer is no.
“Ideally, all of these projects should be able to share the source material, the story they’re trying to tell, and perhaps more importantly, if they’re using someone else’s story, especially if it’s a traumatic story. Credit and money and love must be given back to the community that created the story.
“There are so many exciting new stories out there, so why repeat the same old stories over and over again?
“( ) Ask a few more people, find a few more things, just work with people who have no experience, and magic can happen.”