Opera North (ON) has revealed the four lead artists who have been selected to develop new work in this year’s Resonance programme for minority ethnic music-makers, supported by PRS Foundation’s Talent Development Partnership.
Resonance is designed to support artists from backgrounds which are traditionally under-represented in opera to explore new ideas and collaborate with others. This year’s artists are musician Azizi Cole, vocalist and composer Supriya Nagarajan, composer José Guillermo Puello and writer and performance artist Keisha Thompson. Their projects cover an eclectic mix of theatre, gospel, traditional South Asian music and poetry and contemporary dance.
Raised in Handsworth, Birmingham and now based in Leeds, Azizi Cole will develop his multidisciplinary piece, Body Clock, which employs the body as an instrument to compose and perform music as well as to dance.
“During these challenging and turbulent times for the arts, it’s vital for us to maintain our sense of creativity”, he commented. “I’m grateful for this opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge and skills with some truly talented artists. As a creative working at the intersection of music and dance, my research explores musicality through movement. Collaborations with ACE Youth and NSCD alumni have informed and helped to develop my artist practice and approach to composition.”
Vocalist, composer and artistic director of the Dewsbury-based South Asian arts organisation Manasamitra, Supriya Nagarajan will work with the distinctive and rich tradition of Tamil poetry and music. She said: “With Covid-19 disrupting our routine as artists and changing the way we work, Shash Trevett and I have had many discussions about going back to our cultural roots and exploring our identities through art. We will use the Resonance residency to create four new musical works based on the ancient South Indian Tamil poetic meter, the Yappu.”
José Guillermo Puello, a composer from the Dominican Republic now based in Manchester, will explore the process of constructing an identity through music, soundscapes and performance. He will work with poet and playwright Zodwa Nyoni and Isobel Algar, who performs as a clown under the name Miserabel.
“I was surprised, and obviously delighted, to find out that I had been selected for Resonance 2021,” he said. “Identity has always been a part of my compositional practice and the idea for Persona has been simmering for a couple of years. It’s great to have the time and space to explore different ideas and reflect how the concept of identity has evolved since we first conceived this project.”
Manchester-based writer, performance artist and producer Keisha Thompson will work with singer Yvonne Shelton and musician, sound designer and poet Xana to develop the musical component of her new play, which has been commissioned by Eclipse Theatre, York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre.
“The Bell Curves looks at the ethics of DNA hacking technology”, Keisha explains. “It juggles big themes like religion, politics, scientific experimentation and how that interacts with the Afro-Caribbean, LGBTQ+ and disabled communities. I want to use sound and song to communicate the emotional elements of the story. I want to know what happens when you put gospel, scientific language and field recordings into a petri-dish. How will it grow?”
The four artists will receive a week of free rehearsal space in central Leeds, a grant of up to £3,500 to cover fees and other costs, and support and advice from technicians, producers and other specialists. There are also options for a short film to document each project, and a work-in-progress performance or live stream.
Last summer, Opera North adapted the programme in response to the Covid-19 health crisis. Resonance: The Lockdown Edition saw six innovative collaborations realised remotely. This year, however, the company hopes to return to collaborations in person, subject to any ongoing coronavirus19 restrictions.
Clockwise from top left: Azizi Cole, Supriya Nagarajan, José Guillermo Puello and Keisha Thompson have been revealed as this year’s Resonance artists with Opera North.