The Welsh National Opera (WNO) has announced the release of Creating Change, a series of films created and commissioned by the company.

Conceived in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the films ask the question: ‘What is the role of the arts in times of crisis?’ Each of the five films holds a mirror to some uncomfortable truths about financial, social and racial inequality that have become all the more prevalent during these times, but also has a positive message about making change for the good.

The five writers involved – Sarah Woods, Eric Ngalle Charles, Shreya Sen Handley, Edson Burton and Miles Chambers – had previously worked with WNO on Migrations. This new opera was due to open in autumn 2020, but has been postponed to autumn 2021 due to the pandemic.

Creating Change aims to raise awareness around issues of social inequality and injustice that have deepened through the Covid-19 crisis and asks what we as individuals and collectively as society can do to create real change.

The collection comprises of Death of a Fool by Edson Burton, The Pledge by Shreya Sen Handley,
Stories for Change by Sarah Woods, If heaven is her father’s land, her father can keep it, Bones, and Fragments by Eric Ngalle Charles and A Change Gon Come by Miles Chambers.

Writer Shreya Sen Handley commented: “When WNO asked me to contribute to their Creating Change project, I agreed with alacrity. Not only because it is really relevant to our times and important to demonstrate how we can all do something to help improve the situation we find ourselves in, but also to emphasise that art, often unfairly seen as a frivolous pursuit, has as much of a role to play in lifting us up in these dark times and steering us towards the light. It is a very inclusive project at a time when inclusivity and unity is needed above all else.”

Two of the films have been further developed and set to music by Welsh singer-songwriter sisters Eädyth and Kizzy Crawford. Kizzy composed the score to accompany Death of a Fool, using Vaudeville music suggested by Edson Burton as inspiration, with words sung by tenor Ronald Samm.

Eädyth composed music for The Pledge which includes dance and song performed by British-Indian soprano Natasha Agarwal who is trained in Bharatanatyam, a form of classical Indian dance. “Composing these pieces for WNO has been such an exciting challenge for me and has really pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It has been an honour to take part in the project and a great learning curve for me personally, and it has been great having Kizzy’s help along the way to inspire me.

“Kizzy and I would take part in many school plays growing up and really enjoyed drama and singing together, something that we have carried on together to this day. We have tried to capture as much of this energy and passion that we have for our art in these pieces and I am personally very proud of the outcome.”

Both pieces are accompanied by musicians from WNO Orchestra, while tabla player Pritam Singh of Drumatised, a public, non-profit organisation established to promote world music and develop artistic talent, joins the musicians for The Pledge.

WNO Producer Maris Lyons said of the project: “We are living in unprecedented times. International crisis has exposed the inequalities and injustices in our society more starkly than ever before. Growing economic, social and physical uncertainty has shifted the ground beneath us.

“As a national arts organisation rising to the challenge of the new normal yet still unable to perform live work in theatres, we feel more keenly than ever that bringing artists and ideas together through freedom of expression helps us make sense of an unstable world. Creating Change is an artistic conversation of this kind, where writers, composers, singers and musicians celebrate the role of art to reimagine a future of lasting social change.”

The films are available to watch for free on the Welsh National Opera’s website

From left to right, Eric Ngalle Charles, Shreya Sen Handley, Miles Chambers, Sarah Woods and Edson Burton were commissioned by WNO to make five films for Creating Change.