Our ambition at Music Theatre Wales is to be a force for change: to challenge opera’s tendency to cling to the past by forging a new and different direction of travel for the future of the art form. We believe that if we expand the horizons of opera, we can demonstrate that it’s an art form capable of engaging with people from all areas of society. To achieve this, we know that we too must change, and take our lead from artists with whom we have never previously worked. By collaborating with a wider range of practitioners and harnessing their creativity to explore new ideas, forms and stories, we will be able to connect to and inspire audiences we don’t currently reach.
To start this process, we’re launching New Directions.
With New Directions, Music Theatre Wales sets out to achieve real change - for the company, in terms of the diversity of those we work with and commission, and for the future of opera.
Through this new programme, we will ask: what can opera and music theatre in the 2020s be? Who makes it? Who is it for? How is it created? And where is it performed?
The programme aims to engage with groups who are currently under-represented in opera, including Black, Asian and ethnically diverse artists, disabled artists, LGBTQ+ artists, and those for whom opera has historically been a no-go area. And coming at a time when we are unable to present live performance, the initial focus will be on producing digital work.
New Directions will begin with a year-long programme of commissioning and development for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse composers, writers, theatre makers and digital artists, and will include an internal process of research, development and evaluation for MTW. The programme will be led by Elayce Ismail, a theatre/opera director and dramaturg, who will hold the newly-created post of Artistic Associate. She will work as a senior member of MTW’s team, working with MTW’s Artistic Director Michael McCarthy to shape the New Directions programme, and to support and challenge MTW in its continued organisational learning and development. Elayce will also work closely with the commissioned artists to support and develop their ideas, and embed this new stream of work in the heart of the company.
Inspired by the creation of our first digital work, AMAZON (commissioned for the Homemakers programme at HOME Manchester in July 2020), New Directions will include three commissions to create a new digital work, to be presented before the end of August 2021. Each team will comprise a composer, working with either a writer, theatre maker, digital artist or other creative.
Through New Directions, MTW will celebrate the voices of those we commission as artists in their own right, and lead by example in an industry that has been slow to embrace diversity. The parameters of the digital works are deliberately broad: we will be led by the commissioned artists’ visions for what opera and music theatre can be, in terms of the stories they choose to tell and the forms and processes they employ. As MTW enters into this new period of creativity, collaborating with artists who will inspire us to innovate, we are excited to also reach out to new and more diverse audiences and share our work more widely.