Contemporary opera company Music Theatre Wales (MTW) has revealed New Directions, a new initiative to address the issue of diversity in opera. The project will aim to engage with groups who are under-represented in opera, including Black, Asian and ethnically diverse artists, disabled artists and LGBTQ+ artists.

The programme will “explore what opera and music theatre in the 2020s can be, who it is for, how it is created and by whom, and where it is performed,” the company said in a statement. As opera companies are unable to present live performance at the moment, the initial focus will be on producing digital work.

New Directions will begin with a year-long programme of commissioning and development for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse composers, writers, theatre-makers and digital artists. This will start with three commissions to create a new digital work, to be presented before the end of August 2021. Each team will comprise a composer, working with a writer, theatre-maker, digital artist or other creative.

Artistic Director of Music Theatre Wales Michael McCarthy commented: “As MTW enters into this new period of creativity, collaborating with artists who will inspire us to innovate, we are excited to also reach out to new and more diverse audiences and share our work more widely.

“Our overriding ambition at Music Theatre Wales is to be a driving force for change, to challenge opera’s tendency to cling to the past by forging a new and different direction of travel for the future of the artform. We believe that if we expand the horizons of opera, we can demonstrate that it’s an artform capable of engaging with people from all areas of society.

“To achieve this, we know that we too must change, and take our lead from artists with whom we have never previously worked. By collaborating with a wider range of practitioners and harnessing their creativity to explore new ideas, forms and stories, we will be able to connect to and inspire audiences we don’t currently reach.”

The new project will be headed up by Elayce Ismail, a London-based theatre and opera director. Currently working at London’s Donmar Warehouse as head of new work, she has previously directed productions for the Royal Opera House and English National Opera. She will take on the newly created post of artistic associate. Ismail will work closely with the commissioned artists to support and develop their ideas, and embed this new stream of work in the heart of MTW.

“I have loved working with MTW while creating Amazon, and I’m so excited to continue my relationship with them as artistic associate,” Ismail said of her new role. “New Directions is a fantastic opportunity to work with artists who might never have engaged with opera before, but who can bring a fresh perspective to the artform and join me in reimagining what opera might be.”


London-based theatre and opera director Elayce Ismail will lead Music Theatre Wales’s new programme New Directions.