Birmingham Opera goes online this summer

Published: 21 June 2020
Reporter: Vera Liber

Ronald Samm as Othello Credit: Roy Peters

Birmingham Opera Company has announced that some of its productions are to be shown online in the coming months.

The 2015 production of Tippett’s The Ice Break can be seen on OperaVision from 30 June, the 2012 production of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch Aus Licht / Wednesday from Light will be on its own web site as well as being part of Après Demain Festival from 4 July and the 2009 production of Verdi’s Othello can be found on BBC iPlayer as part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine season (from 19 June). Also, Deutsche Oper began streaming performances of Graham Vick and Jonathan Dove’s version of Das Rheingold in a car park in Berlin on 12 June.

The Ice Break took place in a warehouse in Digbeth, Birmingham and was performed by professional musicians and singers alongside a volunteer cast of hundreds from the local area. First performed in 1977, Vick’s production came on the 30th anniversary of Birmingham’s social unrest of 1985, when violent social conflict broke out on the streets of Handsworth. It will première on OperaVision on 30 June and be available for a month alongside a Q&A with director Graham Vick and artists.

Mittwoch Aus Licht / Wednesday From Light will include flying instrumentalists and a string quartet in helicopters and be available on the Birmingham Opera Company web site and Vimeo on 4 and 5 July and as part of Théatre du Chatelet’s Après Demain Festival curated by Ruth Mackenzie. Originally part of London 2012, the immersive five-hour production was mounted in a disused chemical factory and live streamed.

Available on BBC iPlayer from 19 June, the immersive promenade production of Verdi’s Othello from 2009, which has previously been aired by BBC TV, was the first ever in the UK with a black singer, Ronald Samm, in the role of Othello alongside black singer Keel Watson as white racist Iago, another first in the UK. The company will host a Q&A on its own Vimeo channel in July.

Deutsche Oper Berlin launched its season on 12 June with a 90-minute version of Wagner’s Das Rheingold conducted by Donald Runnicles and by arrangement with Birmingham Opera Company on the parking deck of their building in accordance with social distancing.

Graham Vick, Artistic Director, Birmingham Opera Company said, “these troubled times have exposed once again how far our society is from being equal or fair. We need to do better. Birmingham Opera Company has spent the last 20 years experimenting, researching and exploring ways of presenting opera that will engage and embrace each and every element of our socially diverse city.

“Tens of thousands of Birmingham citizens have helped shape and create the projects we are able to stream. These epic live events were steps along a way that is always a struggle. But when our Birmingham peoples together recoil in horror at Verdi’s Othello, are swept up in the violence of The Ice Break and transported by Stockhausen’s Wednesday, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”