Jubilee Opera, based in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, has announced that Nick Fowler will take up the position of artistic director with immediate effect. Fowler replaces the company’s founder Jenni Wake-Walker, who has now retired.
Fowler was previously stage and production manager for Jubilee Opera for many years. He has also worked as a freelance opera producer, director, stage manager and occasionally performer.
The rest of the creative team Wake-Walker assembled remains in place, and Fowler says that together they intend to continue Jubilee Opera’s work and to build on the foundations that Wake-Walker has established since founding the company in 1987.
Jubilee Opera was founded following a production of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde (1958) at Aldeburgh church. The production was so well received that it was decided to launch an opera company aimed at supporting aspiring young performers to work with professional singers, musicians and creative teams.
Staged earlier this year, a new production of John Gay’s satirical work The Beggar’s Opera (1728) was performed to great success at the Britten Studio at Snape Maltings. This production was the final one of Wake-Walker’s long career at Jubilee Opera. However, although she has stepped away from the day-to-day running of the company, she will still be around to offer advice to her successor.
As well as Nick Fowler, the team at Jubilee Opera consists of Elizabeth Elliott as vocal coach and music director, Sue Knight as administrator and chaperone, Conca Goyder and props maker and chaperone, and Sara Hinton as chaperone.
Fowler commented that the team has already been busy following Wake-Walker’s departure. In October, the company appeared in a performance of The Barber of Seville (Rossini, 1816) which took place at Woodbridge Community Hall. The following day, the Jubilee Opera performed as part of Jenny Hall’s Shake Festival at Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall.
The company has also been working on two forthcoming events. First is a celebration of its work over the years. Jubilee Opera, a Celebration will look back over past productions and forward to future performances, projects and collaborations.
Current members of Jubilee Opera will perform excerpts from operas. Video extracts of previous performances will be shown, along with interviews with the adults and children who have performed with the company. Audience participation will be encouraged for a performance of one of the Audience Chorus Songs from Britten’s opera for children The Little Sweep (1949).
The show takes place at Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall on 19 November at 3pm. Tickets cost £14 and are available from the hall.
Then on 23 December, Jubilee Opera will take part in The Snowman, the annual Christmas show presented by Britten-Pears Arts at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Tickets cost £15 from the concert hall.
Talking about the company’s goals, Fowler said: “We feel very strongly that the performing arts in general, and classical music and opera in particular, are going through an existential crisis at the moment in this country, attacked from all sides as being elitist, irrelevant and outdated.
“Music education in schools is increasingly being cut due to constant pressures on time and resources, and our aim is to do our best to counteract that and provide children and young people with an opportunity to experience this great artform.
“We aim to show that opera can be presented in ways that make it interesting, vibrant and relevant to audiences and participants of all ages and from all backgrounds.”
Jubilee Opera is currently working with 14 schools in the Suffolk area, offering rehearsals and performances outside of school hours. While participants are auditioned, there is no pass or fail. The aim is to understand their voice and performance style.
“We are proud to integrate a wide range and variety of experience, knowledge and talent into our productions,” Fowler added.
In order to continue this work, Jubilee Opera is looking to recruit a number of key people, who will be known as Friends of Jubilee Opera. They will assist the company with fund-raising and preparatory work. Interested people should contact the company directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jubilee Opera performs The Casket Girl, a 2019 opera for children by Russell Hepplewhite, inspired by the discovery in 2013 of the Anglo-Saxon grave of a young woman.