ROH Engender Festival returns for 2021

Published: 24 June 2021
Reporter: Vera Liber

The Royal Opera House's Engender Festival 12–17 July 2021 will feature a week of talks and debates, operas in progress, concerts and workshops with a line-up of artists, composers, change-makers and creatives.

Engender is The Royal Opera’s initiative to change gender imbalance in opera and music theatre. The annual festival celebrates the work of women and gender minorities in opera and provides a platform for discussions with audiences.

Kate Wyatt, Creative Producer for The Royal Opera and Founder of Engender, explained, “Engender has been a highlight for me over the past year and it’s been a pleasure to welcome members from further afield including South Africa, Egypt and the USA. Engender is a vital space for women and gender minorities in opera to connect, empower each other and identify practical ways to move the issue of gender equality forward, all the more essential with the ongoing impact of the pandemic.”

There will be a series of three Opera-in-Progress sessions in Clore Studio. On Monday 12 July, writer Maria Fusco will discuss History of the Present, a working-class opera that explores the resonances and legacies of the peace lines in Northern Ireland with dramaturg Jude Christian.

Writer Nadifa Mohamed and composer Nina Whiteman will present The Fortune Men on Wednesday 14 July. Set in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, in the 1950s, this is the true story of a mixed-race couple wrenched apart by unjust circumstances featuring a variety of musical influences (calypso, sea shanties, Jewish cantors, Welsh male voice choirs).

Director Daisy Evans and composer Laura Bowler are developing Lambs, an opera in the form of a podcast. On Friday 16 July through headphones, audiences will listen to a host processing the lives of three fictional women incarcerated for the murder of their children.

On Friday 16 and Saturday 17 July in the Linbury Theatre, Mami Wata, conceived by Alison Buchanan, Artistic Director of Pegasus Opera, illuminates the works from a range of established composers such as Bushra El-Turk and Errollyn Wallen, alongside music by Nkeiru Okoye, Lettie Beckon Alston, Dorothy Rudd Moore and Nahla Mattar, including UK premières of unheard work.

There will be two Insights streamed on YouTube: on Monday 12 July, classical music journalist Alexandra Coghlan, Alison Buchanan and soprano Kate Royal will explore the themes of ‘gatekeeping’ in opera and how it manifests. The second will study gender barriers through a different lens, as part of the Shubbak Festival, chaired by Theresa Ruth Howard, joined by artistic leaders from South Africa and Egypt.

There will also be practical Zoom workshops on how to pitch yourself led by Ilene Bergelson, founder of Empower Speak and another on managing imposter syndrome led by Lyndsey Oliver, coach and author of Why all Fish are Biased.