Stories and announcements

14Sep. 2018.

Schools' Drawing Competition


The Box of Delights by Piers Torday based on the novel by John Masefield

Closing date: 19th November 2018 at 12.00 (midday).


"Stylish and absorbing show that will delight audiences of all ages" (Evening Standard ★★★★ December 2017)

Once upon a time, there were two great sorcerers, Ramon Lulli and Arnold of Todi. To decide who was the most powerful, they made a wager. Who could invent the most incredible magical power, never seen before?

After a year, Ramon returned with an elixir, which would grant the drinker eternal life. But then Arnold revealed his invention.

A box of his own invention. A mysterious and wondrous Box of Delights, with dark powers.

Before Ramon could respond, Arnold disappeared, taking his Box with him.

Now centuries later, a boy on a train travelling home for the holidays, is about to be drawn into an ancient magical struggle, that will see him fighting not just for his life, but to save Christmas itself. 

Watch out, Kay Harker, for the wolves are running…

Based on the much loved and critically acclaimed festive children’s classic by John Masefield, a direct forerunner to Narnia and Harry Potter, known to many through the legendary BBC adaptation, you can now experience the enthralling wonder of Masefield’s world for yourself, from flying cars to fiery phoenixes, live, only at Wilton’s Music Hall.

"Truly charming festive treat that will thrill the kids while entrancing the adults. Recommended." (★★★★ What’s On Stage, December 2017)

The Creative Team includes Director Justin Audibert (Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre and Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre) and Olivier awarding-winning Designer Tom Piper, best-known recently as the designer of the poppy installation at the Tower of London – Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red


To celebrate Wilton’s production of The Box of Delights by Piers Torday based on the novel by John Masefield, we are running a drawing competition for Key Stage 2 (years 3-6). We would like you to draw or paint a picture of what you imagine might be contained within the magical Box of Delights.

The winning entry will be printed on the front cover of The Box of Delights programme for the duration of the production’s run at Wilton’s, 30th November – 5th January. The winner will also receive four tickets to see a performance of their choice of The Box of Delights, subject to availability, and £100 worth of books for their school, courtesy of Hachette Children's Books, including all of Piers Torday's books and his spellbinding new novel The Lost Magician.

Closing date Friday 19th November at 12.00 (midday). We will not be able to return submitted work.

How to enter
- Make a picture of what you think might be in the Box of Delights.
- Use any materials, techniques or processes (for example drawing, painting, printmaking, textiles, photography, computer aided design, collage, montage) to make your piece, as long as the entry is two dimensional.
- The entry must be no bigger than A4.
- Entries will be judged on originality and creativity, boldness and impact. Judges will include: Piers Torday and members of The Box of Delights company. 
- Submit entries with entry form to: The Box of Delights Competition, Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB


Read more
7Sep. 2018.

Twelfth Night|Interview with Paul Hart, Director

The Watermill ensemble is all about ripping up the rule book when it comes to Shakespeare. You can have a really good time and watch Shakespeare in the same evening!
When I took over as Artistic Director of the Watermill I wanted to find a new approach to how we do Shakespeare based on the amazing legacy of ensemble led productions here. I'd become bored by the approach of the bigger theatres and had always felt that at the Watermill you get that amazing alchemy of creating something in a little barn in the middle of nowhere with everyone living within a few yards of each other. You feel like you're doing something a bit naughty and it's a place where you can take a leap.

Music in the productions
Music is really key in our productions and it's all played live by our ridiculously talented casts. Romeo and Juliet was set around a bar owned by the Capulets, Midsummer Night Dream in an abandoned theatre and Twelfth Night is in a jazz club – all spaces that music can really bring to life. I've long been fascinated by modern lyrics sitting alongside Shakespeare's text and what that can reveal. All of the music in Twelfth Night is inspired by postmodern jukebox – modern songs played with a 20's twist. It helps to reveal a fervour and energy to the period in which we've set the play but adds to the clarity of storytelling for audiences not familiar to the play. For those who do know the play – they won't have seen a version like this before. The first half ends with Malvolio breaking into Lorde's 'Royals' revealing his ultimate fantasy and I love it!

The ensemble
We've worked with about twenty brilliant actors over the last three years and they (along with the creative team) have become key collaborators. I've worked closely with Tom Jackson Greaves, who's pushed the use of physical theatre in the shows, and Katie, our designer, is doing incredible work, finding a bold visual language that reveals the plays in a new light. We have a 50/50 gender split and love experimenting with women playing parts traditionally played by men – this takes on a whole new level when you're doing a play which to some extent is about gender and it makes so much sense in this version with Toby Belch and Antonio (now Antonia) also played by women. Shakespeare's plays tackle gender head on and are just one of the reasons why he feels so contemporary.     

How much do we cut/mess around with the text?
We use Shakespeare's original text; sometimes we make cuts and play with the structure. I'm a fervent believer in the rigour of speaking Shakespeare's text really well and to get into the company you have to have a natural ability with verse speaking. This frees us up to play with ideas early in rehearsals. I also believe in physicalising the text as early as possible to get it into the body. Shakespeare relies on a complete commitment of mind, body and emotion to have any hope of pulling it off.

What will Wilton's bring to the party?
It's the perfect space for the play with incredible acoustics. We did Frankenstein there in 2017 which was great; in some ways it's quite similar to the Watermill – intimate but epic. It's the perfect space to imagine being in a 20's speakeasy. Having toured the show all over the country and abroad – this is the perfect setting for it to land in London and we can't wait to share it with audiences.

Who will enjoy it?
We always say that in the back of our minds we're thinking about the production we'd all have wanted to see when we were at school and engaging young audiences and encouraging accessibility to the plays is incredibly important to me. Having said that, we're faithful to the text and the story. I like to think that the ever radical Shakespeare would have loved the shows and I think there's something there for everyone. That's the genius of the guy – the plays can be appreciated on so many levels and Twelfth Night is as close to a perfect night at the theatre you'll ever get.
Read more
30Aug. 2018.

Paul Bunyan|Interview with Jamie Manton, Director

What is Paul Bunyan about? 
Paul Bunyan is about the folklore legend and giant lumberjack, Paul Bunyan. Paul Bunyan's mission is leading a team of pioneers (alongside his pet, Babe the blue ox) to cut down the virgin forests of America, making way for civilisation. It is about man's conquest of nature. Paul Bunyan essentially represents America as the new and emerging empire of the early 1900s, the nation that was built on dreams and in particular the 'American Dream'. 

Why should people come and see it? 
Paul Bunyan can only be described as a treasure chest of wonders. This is Britten's Broadway piece and has a vast array of music genres: from musical numbers, to folk, to blues, to opera, to hymns, etc. It is hugely entertaining and full of wit through Auden's rich poetry. Alongside the eclectic mix of music, there are approximately thirty-five named characters that explode out of the piece, all with different dreams, narratives and tangents. It makes for a perfect night of entertainment, especially in Wilton's Music Hall where everything is performed in such close proximity to the audience.

What do you think staging Paul Bunyan at Wilton’s brings to the production? 
Staging this large-scale opera in a beautiful, but small-scale theatre, means that this production is going to make the audience feel fully immersed in the music and the story. Powered by a twenty-three manned orchestra and a forty manned chorus, the waves of sound are going to be immense and thrilling with regards to intensity. The opera won't have been heard like this before. It will be like opera's version of a rock concert or the Imax. Not only will the sound be so powerful, but Wilton's allows for us to break the fourth wall and play action from all over the theatre. We are creating a surround sound production that is hopefully full of surprises. 

How would you describe your approach and process as a director? 
This is always a very difficult question to answer, because it shifts per piece and could be an essay of an answer. In brief I, as a director, am particularly interested in the 'world' of a piece and how/why all of the characters belong to this world/narrative. My process involves a lot of initial research about the piece and around the piece, often deconstructing it to discover if there are any exciting possibilities. I then work very closely with my designer (Camilla Clarke) in discovering the world in which we want to play the story, making sure to marry in what we want to say with the piece. The next stage is working with my movement director (Jasmine Ricketts), to build the physical language of what we want to create. Finally, when we begin rehearsals, I work thoroughly with the cast on character biogs/histories as it all has to be rooted in truth. We then play a lot, especially on an opera such as this, to work out the tangible arcs and objectives. I'm very particular about stage pictures and so this is a key part of my rehearsal process too.

Paul Bunyan was written in 1941; how to do you think this piece is relevant to the world in which we live in today?
What I find so exciting about this opera, is that despite being written and performed in 1941, it is so relevant and holds great resonance to the world that we live in today. As I mentioned above, this piece is about man's conquest of nature. In the early 1900s, conquest and growth was exciting! We'd experienced the Industrial Revolution and the world was always changing and evolving. Everyone was full of the 'American Dream'. But what does man's continued conquest of nature mean to us today? We are beginning to see the dangers of continued conquest and growth. Deforestation. Over Farming. Climate Change. Waste. Capitalism. Consumerism. Materialism. Progression. These problems are not only American, but Universal. Britten and Auden at the end of the piece have the chorus repeatedly sing "Save animals and men". This is a very powerful message to us today. It calls for radical change in man's relation to the land and the animals and plants which grow upon it. The opera is concerned with collective action and it culminates in a ritual feast, but the emphasis shifts to the "life of choice" and the importance of individual action. It's a wake up moment for the audience.

What inspires you as a director? 
There are many things that inspire me, but I would first and foremost say that it's 'people' that inspire me. My reasoning for joining theatre as a child was because I loved collaborating with people and belonging to a company. This is still my main inspiration today. There is no adrenalin like collaboration. Everyone has different stories, different backgrounds and it is so exciting to work in rehearsal rooms that are so full of different perspectives and ideas. This can also be the intimidating part too!

Do you have a favourite moment from Paul Bunyan
My favourite moment has been shifting day by day, because there are so many wonderful moments. Right now and at this very second, I would say that it has to be The Quartet of the Defeated (The Blues). At the top of Act 1 we go through a series of numbers where we witness all of the new recruits, all full of dreams, joining Paul Bunyan's camp. At the end of this series, Paul Bunyan leaves them all with a "dream of warning" and this is The Quartet of the Defeated. This is his way of instilling fear in the men of holding to large a dreams. The music is sensual, possessing a dark chill that weaves it’s way through the space. It is like a ghostly spirit working its way through what was a warm and joyful pub, only moments ago. "America can break your heart. You don't know all sir, you don’t know all". 
Read more
24Apr. 2018.

Plays Without Decor 2018

Calling all emerging directors! 

If you are a young or emerging director in need of space and support to workshop some of your brilliant theatrical ideas, our Plays Without Decor programme may be what you're looking for. As part of our Heritage and Artistic Engagement Programme, Wilton's is offering four emerging directors the chance to use Wilton's Aldgate and Allhallows Learning and Participation Studio for one week in October 2018.

This is a light and airy purpose-built space dedicated to our learning and participation activities. The Studio has a capacity of 40, to include audience and company. Wilton's will provide seating if requested and an usher if needed, but this is Plays Without Decor and so we will not provide any technical equipment and we ask that your pieces do not include any set, lighting, sound or any other technical equipment.

Wilton's will give the space for free; if you decide to use some of your time to produce a reading, a workshop or a semi-staged performance we will manage the Box Office for you and you will take 100% of the revenue, which we ask goes towards paying any practitioners you have asked to help you. You will also receive up to two hours mentoring from the Wilton's team, which could include sessions on producing, marketing, and fundraising.

Plays Without Decor is supported by the Noel Coward Foundation.

To apply, simply download the info sheet and application form and send to info@wiltons.org.uk with 'Plays Without Decor' as the subject title.

The closing date for applications is Monday 2nd July 2018.

Info sheet
Read more
10Apr. 2018.

On Adrienne Rich and Writing about the Difficult World

Poet Mary Jean Chan explores the poetry of Adrienne Rich, one of the most poignant voices behind the 1960's anti-war, feminist and LGBT rights movements.

I've been thinking about courage lately, what that might mean in my daily life as a poet. There is a lot of fear and anxiety bound up in being a writer – apart from the act of writing (which, in my opinion, will always remain the best part about being a writer), there is the continual attempt at being heard – which perhaps might entail publishing and sharing one's work with a reader. Prior to experiencing the more public-facing aspect of poetry, I used to think it would be a simple process, in the sense that I would simply adapt to whatever was required of me at any given stage of being a poet (the way other poets I admire seem to do with ease and poise). However, I've recently begun to grapple with feelings of fear, shame and guilt in terms of putting certain poems into the public sphere, and how that might impact upon my deep-seated sense of loyalty to those I love and hold dear. 

In her recent editorial for The Poetry Review, Emily Berry writes: "When poets write about the hard world, which they do most of the time, about illness, grief, death, injustice, about individual and collective suffering…they chisel away some of the ice for the rest of us." This poignant observation reminded me about what drew me to poetry at the age of twenty, when the work of a Jewish-American lesbian-feminist poet made me realize that the hard world could not only be endured, but also reimagined and transformed. Adrienne Rich was the first poet I encountered who wrote so courageously and compelling about the difficult world, and who sought to interrogate and confront power in her work.

As someone who had remained closeted during most of my time at university, I remember the fierce, quiet joy I felt when I read these lines in Rich’s poem "Cartographies of Silence", penned in 1975: "silence can be a plan / rigorously executed / the blueprint to a life / it is a presence / it has a history / a form / do not confuse it / with any kind of absence". Since then, I have tried to refuse that blueprint which demanded my abnegation of who I was and whom I wished to love. In her Journals and Notebooks (1964–1980), Susan Sontag observes: "To live is to defend a form." Nowadays, I try to keep the fear at bay, and to live within my chosen form – that of poetry – whilst writing towards Rich's "dream of a common language".

Explore the work of Adrienne Rich at Wilton's on 23 April, part of a series presented by Poet in the City, The Dream of a Common Language: The Women Poets Who Changed 1968. Tickets on sale here.
Read more
15Dec. 2017.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

....first and foremost a love story... 

Writer Daniel Jamieson explores the inspiration behind The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, 
his play for Kneehigh Theatre - the love of artists Marc and Bella Chagal.

From the moment they fell for each other in Vitebsk, Belarus in 1909, Marc Chagall and his wife, Bella, seemed to share a particular way of seeing the world. Bella was a talented writer and her description of their first encounter is like a Chagall painting in words: 'The door opened wider… I felt hot with apprehension… as if something were scorching me. Light spread over the walls, and against them appeared the face of a boy…his eyes, they were as blue as if they’d fallen straight out of the sky.'

Famously, Marc often painted himself and Bella flying together, as if their shared joy had such force it defied the law of gravity itself. In his painting Birthday, they appear surprised by their flight, rising towards the ceiling like two astonished bubbles of ecstasy. In Over the Town, they drift high over Vitebsk as you only fly in dreams, but magically sharing the same floating reverie. There can be few more vivid evocations in art of how it feels to be in love.

The Chagalls’ story is also remarkable because it is so interwoven with 20th-century history. Marc was in Paris before the First World War, when Modernism was at its height and Cubism was just taking off. He briefly returned to Russia to marry Bella and got trapped there by the war, narrowly avoiding conscription into the Tsar’s army. They were then swept up in the Russian Revolution and when they did finally make it back to Western Europe, they got caught up in the beginnings of the Holocaust. They just escaped from France to America by the skin of their teeth in 1941.

But there is a contemporary resonance to The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk as well because it deals with the trauma of the refugee experience. In exile, Marc and Bella watched in horror as the Jewish homeland of their youth was systematically destroyed and the Nazis set about murdering the entire Jewish population of Europe. There is a strong
sense of their homesickness for a home that no longer exists. This must surely echo the experience of those who’ve fled from Mosul or Homs or Rakhine State today. If and when these people can return, will there be anything left of the home they left behind?

The theme of exile also gives the show an international flavour, which carries through into the language - many of the songs are in Yiddish, Russian or French. There is a celebration of the texture of different languages, their beauty beyond meaning. In this way the show invites an enjoyment of moving between cultures as if laying down rugs between houses for a party. Perhaps we don’t always need to understand each other’s every word to enjoy each other’s company.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk
is quite unusual for Kneehigh in that it only has two characters – just Marc and Bella - but it has the chutzpah of Kneehigh’s grander work on a chamber scale. This intimacy suits what remains, after all, at its heart, the story of two people in love.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk was at Wilton's from 17th January until 10th February 2018. Archived here.
Read more
21Nov. 2017.

Plays Without Décor Programme

Are you a young or emerging director looking for some space and support to workshop some of your brilliant ideas? Well, Wilton’s Plays Without Décor Programme may be for you. 
As part of our Learning and Participation Programme, Wilton’s is offering four emerging directors the chance to use Wilton’s Aldgate and Allhallows Learning and Participation Studio for one week between January - April 2018.  

Dates and Times

Monday 22nd – Friday 26th January 10.00 – 21.30
Monday 12th – Friday 18th February 10.00 – 21.30
Monday 19th – Friday 23rd March 10.00 – 21.30
Monday 9th – Friday 13th April 10.00 – 21.30  

The Space
Aldgate and Allhallows Learning and Participation Studio is a beautiful, light and airy purpose-built space dedicated to our learning and participation activities. The Studio has a capacity of 40, to include audience and company. Wilton’s would provide seating if requested and an usher, if needed, but this is a Plays Without Décor season and so we will not provide any technical equipment and we will ask that your pieces do not include any set, lighting, sound or any other technical equipment.  

The Offer
Wilton’s will give the space for free, although if you decide to use some of your time to produce a reading, a workshop or a semi-staged performance we will manage the Box Office for you and you will take 100% of the revenue which we would ask goes towards paying any practitioners you have asked to help you.  

You will also receive up to two hours mentoring from the Wilton’s team, which could include sessions on:
Producing – led by Becky Ruffell and/or Holly Kendrick
Marketing – led by Amy Wilkes
Fundraising – led by Rachael Palmer
You could choose what sessions are most useful to you and your project.  

If you are chosen then we would ask you to sign a simple agreement detailing what is expected of you and what we expect of you.  

Some things to note: Plays with Décor is just that – please don’t apply to produce something with technical kit. We are happy for you to do a performance to a paying audience but we can only support one performance during the week and we will set ticket prices.  

How to Apply
If you would like to apply for a slot in the Plays Without Décor Programme you can do so by filling in the application form.
You will need to tell us how you would use your week in the Studio, why your project is important and what benefits you would gain from the experience. You can apply to do a workshop, readings, a performance without décor. We are looking for original and exciting ideas.

If you would like to work on a published text and wish to do a showing to a paying audience you must have the rights.

The deadline for applications is Monday 18th December 2018.
Read more
13Nov. 2017.

Drawing competition

To celebrate the world premiere of The Box of Delights Wilton’s is running a drawing competition for Key Stage 2 (years 3-6).

We would like you to draw or paint a picture of what you imagine might be contained within the magical Box of Delights. The winning entry will be printed on the front cover of The Box of Delights programme for the duration of the production’s run at Wilton’s, 1st December 2017 – 6th January 2018.

The winner will also receive four tickets to see a performance of their choice of The Box of Delights, subject to availability.

This competition closes on Friday 17th November at midday, so get drawing!

To find out more, download the information pack here
Read more
3Nov. 2017.

When did the first violin appear?

Kreutzer Quartet leader and violin virtuoso Peter Sheppard Skaerved returns to his favourite venue later this month, taking you through the history of the violin, and instilling in you some of his enthusiasm for the instrument... 

When did the first violin appear? That’s a question which I often get asked, and the answer is, well, complicated…

...But one thing can be said; in the mid-1500s a Cremonese luthier (string-instrument maker) called Andrea Amati (c.1500 – 1577) started producing instruments which set the model and the standard for every violin, viola and cello that followed. Very few of these instruments survive, and only a handful can be played. It’s incredibly exciting, as well as rare, to hold one of these violins and am lucky enough to regularly perform and record on the instrument which I will play tonight. The very fact that I can perform on an violin made during the reign of Elizabeth 1st is wonderful, but it is also an astonishing violin, offering challenges and colour which still exceed what a modern player will need. 

Andrea Amati violin (ca. 1570)

For the Amati violin, this Telemann Fantasy is a wonderful work to hear the range of colours and timbres of this violin; intimate and up close, the sound of the violin right under the player's ear! 

Andrea founded a dynasty; his son Girolamo (c. 1561 – 1630) made astonishing violins, one of which will also be heard tonight, dated the year before his death. This is, in every respect, a ‘modern’ violin; I have played everything from very early works, big concertos, and lots of ‘extreme’ contemporary music on this instrument; it fills the biggest halls, and has a truly sensual sound. 

Playing the Girolamo Amati 1629 to Mags from A-ha

In this video I play and talk about the violin, alongside contemporary precious objects from the early 1600s in the astonishing Waddesdon Room at the the British Museum. Early violins were prized for their visual beauty, and designed to be seen alongside precious works of art and curiosities such as these. 

Girolamo’s son, Nicolò Amati (1596 – 1684), most famous of the Amati dynasty, may have taught Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 1737) greatest of all makers. Tonight’s concert also features a unique small ‘Strad’ made in 1685 This is not a children’s violin, but reminder, that in the 17th century, there were as many sizes of instrument as clarinets; you simply used a different instrument for different colours or pitches. I would describe this as a ‘soprano’ violin. It’s in almost perfect condition, and is full of wonderful colours. 

Listen to music from the 1680s played on this 1685 Stradavari violin in this album, heard here in a miraculous Christopher Wren Church from built in the same decade!

Close up of the exquisite, and perfect back of the 1685 Stradivari

These are just three of the instruments that will be heard in our concert! There will be more, from the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries, each distinctive in their own way. Come along and hear them, playing music from four centuries. 

Listen to these pieces and more on The Voice of The Violin playlist on our Spotify here.

Peter Sheppard Skaerved performs The Voice of the Violin on 21st November. Tickets are available here.

Read more
25Oct. 2017.

A Perfect Fit

Sometimes, the artistic stars align and the right people find themselves collaborating on the right work in the right place at the right time. Such are the happy circumstances in which OperaGlass Works present their debut production here at Wilton’s: Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. The history of the opera, its story and that of the creative team behind the production are like the threads of a web, connecting people, places and times. If ever an opera was meant to find its way to Wilton’s stage, this must surely be the one.

Igor Stravinksy was inspired to write his only full-scale opera after seeing William Hogarth’s celebrated engravings in 1947. The artist, satirist and social critic engraved the series of eight scenes for print shortly after painting his original canvasses in the early 1730s. This second of what he referred to as his ‘modern moral subjects’ depicts the fate of Tom Rakewell, who inherits his miserly father’s fortune only to squander it twice, finally sinking into madness and ending his life in the Royal Bethlem Hospital in Moorfields, or Bedlam as it became known.

Stravinsky invited his fellow émigré to the US, W H Auden, to write the libretto for The Rake’s Progress, a commission which the poet felt to be one of the greatest honours of his life.  Auden enlisted the help of his companion, the poet, translator and opera-lover, Chester Kallman. The two had met shortly after Auden moved to New York in 1939. Kallman was 18 and beautiful and Auden, 14 years his senior, fell hopelessly in love with him. Their ‘marriage’ (as Auden liked to think of it) was, however, short-lived as Kallman soon proved himself utterly incapable of sexual fidelity - a true rake, in fact. Despite this, they remained friends and even shared a home until Auden’s death in 1973.  The opera was premiered at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice in 1951, followed by major productions in Paris and New York.

L-R: WIlliam Hogarth, Igor Stravinsky, Chester Kallman, Wystan Auden

The libretto is only loosely based on Hogarth’s story but shares its irony that Tom’s ‘progress’ is, of course, precisely the opposite. His lust for money and the high-life leads him to turn his back on his virtuous betrothed and head to London with the mysterious Nick Shadow, who turns out to be the Devil. He descends into debauchery, debt and prison, finally losing his mind and his life as well as his money. He becomes addicted to drink and gambling. He frequents brothels and the dens of iniquity that were precursors to the Victorian pubs and music halls condemned by the Methodists, who saw themselves as rescuing Wilton’s from the Devil’s hands when they took possession of the building in 1888. Just one of the reasons OperaGlass Works set their hearts on staging The Rake's Progress within these walls, with their evocative dilapidated grandeur to heighten the sense of decline and decay.

The company of directors, singers, musicians, actors and designers has been a long time in the making. They are friends, collaborators and seasoned professionals. Between them, they have a wealth of experience, skills and talents to complement and feed each other, dovetail and come together to create something very special. Their mission is to bring about change in the world of opera. They want to present world class, highly engaging productions in exquisite and intimate spaces. They want to do away with the fourth wall and put the performers back in contact with the audience. They want to reintroduce the immediacy of 18th century theatre and opera, with performers talking and singing directly to those watching, rather than at them from a physical and artistic distance.

OperaGlass Works was founded by Selina Cadell and Eliza Thompson, who discovered Wilton’s charm when they collaborated here on Congreve’s The Way of The World in 2003. Selina is not only a respected actor on stage and screen (you may have seen her in The Dresser in the West End, The Habit of Art at the National or in ITV’s Doc Martin) but also a director specialising in 17th and 18th century theatre and opera. She is Head of Drama at National Opera Studio (who presented Dubai – Rostov - New York at Wilton’s in May) and a regular coach at the Royal Opera House. Eliza is a composer, arranger and music supervisor and consultant for film, television and theatre. Together, they have worked on Love for Love at the RSC, The Rivals at the Arcola, Handel’s Arianna in Creta at the Britten Theatre and the film The Madness of King George, to name only a few.

In the Right Place: Selina arrives at Wilton's

Their methods are more akin to development and rehearsal for theatre than for opera. As Eliza explains, 'Singers spend most of their time perfecting their singing technique without the opportunity to explore how they can liberate that technique by learning acting methods'. Rehearsal periods will be lengthy to allow a full exploration of the irony and depth of text as well as score and, as Selina pointed out in day two of rehearsals: 'when you start to examine the words, it’s like peeling an onion, uncovering layer after layer of meaning and context'. The process is intensely collaborative for everyone involved and the team Eliza and Selina have brought together make for an extraordinarily rich mix.

Laurence Cummings, who will conduct on stage from his harpsichord, is one of this country’s foremost experts in historical performance and has been Artistic Director of the London Handel Festival for almost 20 years. He has conducted for countless opera companies and orchestras. For The rake’s Progress, he will lead the Southbank Sinfonia, a group of 33 outstanding graduates from all over the world. Here he is playing Air Harpsichord at his first costume fitting:

Tom Piper is one of the most sought-after designers in theatre today. He has been Associate Designer for the RSC since 2004, has won many awards including an Olivier and is renowned for the famous poppies installation at the Tower of London. He also happens to be designing The Box of Delights for Wilton’s this Christmas. Costume design is by none other than BAFTA winner, Rosalind Ebbutt, whose amazing work for ITV has included Victoria, Downton Abbey and Foyle’s War. And the principal cast is positively dazzling: Robert MurraySusanna Hurrell, Jonathan Lemalu, Stephen Richardson, Penelope Cousland, Harry NicollWe are deeply honoured to host such an extraordinary debut production.  

L to R:  Robert Murray, Eliza Thompson, Selina Cadell, Stephen Richardson - still smiling at the end of a hard day's rehearsals!

Although written in a post-war avant garde period, Stravinsky’s score is widely held to be his most melodious composition, borrowing from historic operatic conventions whilst remaining a distinctly modern work. Composer Thomas Adès conducted The Rake’s Progress at Covent Garden in 2008 and proclaimed it to be 'one of the greatest operas there is'. A bold statement for an exceptional work, and Hogarth’s moral tale has been inspiring similarly significant artistic responses for almost three hundred years. To list just a few 20th century examples: Gavin Gordon and Ninette de Valois’ 1935 ballet designed by Rex Whistler; David Hockney’s etchings of the same title (he also designed the 1975 production of Stravinsky’s opera at Glyndebourne); Grayson Perry’s tapestries, The Vanity of Small Differences; and Yinka Shonibare MBE’s photographic tableaux, Diary of a Victorian Dandy. Hogarth was a founding governor of the Foundling Hospital and, in 2014, the Foundling Museum marked the 250th anniversary of his death by showing Hockney, Shonibare and Perry alongside a new commission from Jessie Brennan. Brennan’s A Fall of Ordinariness and Light explored the concept of ‘progress’ in the context of gentrification in the deprived London Borough of Tower Hamlets – home to Wilton’s Music Hall. The Foundling Museum’s exhibition guide described A Rake’s Progress as 'an unflinching portrayal of the corruption, hypocrisy, vice and occasional virtue of eighteenth-century London'. Such perennial themes continue to strike chords today and an opera that questions whether it is love or money that is more important will forever be relevant.

If you fancy taking a look at Hogarth’s original paintings before enjoying OperaGlass Works’ production, you can find them on display in the Sir John Soane’s Museum, where they have been since 1810. Then why not hop over to to Leicester Square and say hello to the bust of Hogarth himself?

The Rake’s Progress runs 17th to 25th November and you can buy tickets here.
Read more
  • HLF 2
Your cart  
Check Out