100 artists across 14 countries and 4 continents stage Guildhall School of Music & Drama digital opera double bill

A 20th-century reimagining of one of the earliest English operas Dido and Aeneas – Purcell’s tragic love story featuring the famous
aria Dido’s Lament – is contrasted with Respighi’s La bella dormente nel bosco, a witty take on the Sleeping Beauty
story. The School’s production would have been the UK premiere of
Respighi’s rarely performed work. All students, staff and guest artists
have been working from wherever they have been living during the lockdown,
across at least 14 countries and four continents.

From home, the opera’s cast and chorus have captured and filmed their own
performances under the virtual direction of director Olivia Fuchs and movement director Victoria Newlyn, which have then been edited by the
filmmaker Karl Dixon. Guildhall School instrumentalists
have recorded their parts for a multi-track recording of the orchestral
scores co-ordinated by conductor and Head of Opera Dominic Wheeler.

The visions of designer takis and lighting designer Jake Wiltshire have been brought to life by Guildhall
School staff and students using a range of innovative technology. A 3D
model of Silk Street Theatre, produced using cutting-edge lidar scanning
technology, was used as the basis for the production under the expert
guidance of BILD Studios. All of the behind-the-scenes work to create a
regular opera production at Guildhall – construction, costume, lighting,
props, scenic art, sound and video production – have been translated to the
digital world.

Dominic Wheeler, Head of Opera at Guildhall School
says: “
When we started this project, we had to reinvent our way of working so
quickly that we felt it would put too much pressure on everyone
involved to share the full finished result publicly. However, whilst
the process has certainly been a healthy challenge, it has also been
exciting and eye-opening. We feel that the students’ enthusiasm and
commitment to telling stories meaningfully in such difficult
circumstances transcends all the challenges they’ve faced, and makes us
proud to share their work with everyone

Collaborative and interdisciplinary work is a priority across Guildhall
School, and this project has integrated work by more than 100 artists from
the Opera, Production Arts, Vocal and Music departments, as well as
Guildhall Live Events – an innovative new department set up to act as a
conduit between the professional artistic, creative and entertainment
industries and the world-class educational practises of Guildhall School.

Dan Shorten, Creative Director of Guildhall Live Events says
: “
This wonderful cross-School collaborative project is an excellent
example of Guildhall’s resourcefulness and ability to adapt. Having
firm connections to industry, through initiatives such as Guildhall
Live Events, allows for current technical innovation and developments
to be instantly implemented into curriculum delivery, and conversely
allows our students to work with, and push, our industry partners and
the way we work with them commercially.”

The Production Arts department at Guildhall School has long been recognised
as providing some of the most innovative vocational training in the UK and
beyond, and the School is embracing this chance for students to learn
cutting-edge skills and new technology working practises which are vital in
today’s theatre and live events industry.

The digital opera double bill is available to watch until 1 July


Dido and Aeneas

La bella dormente nel bosco

Creative Team

Dominic Wheeler

Olivia Fuchs


Jake Wiltshire
lighting designer

Victoria Newlyn
movement director

Streaming link: www.gsmd.ac.uk/music/virtual_opera