Stef Conner on People Watch

Stef Conner and Bill Bankes-Jones in rehearsals for People Watch. Photo: Alan Kerr

Our latest Little Opera, People Watch, opens Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2015 on Tuesday 21 July at 7pm. With just one day to go, People Watch's Composer (and Streetwise Opera Composer in Residence) Stef Conner shares her thoughts about opera, TV watching and hope:

“The overarching theme for Streetwise Opera’s 2014-15 Little Opera season is 'hope' and Bill Bankes-Jones [People Watch Director / Librettist] and I were interested in finding a lens through which we could examine the subtle shades of hope that affect most people in their everyday lives. Setting up a scenario in which the audience are invited to watch small groups of characters watching television allowed us to explore the ways in which contemporary culture manipulates our hopes and desires.

“We wanted to draw on the whole spectrum of hope, from dark to light, looking not only at the positive, life-affirming aspects – apparent in the moments when TV inspires our characters to acts of generosity or self-improvement – but also the negative ones, exemplified in People Watch when characters are drawn into the unrealistic hopes for fulfillment that mass culture seems to make: get rich without working hard; spend money and become beautiful; acquire more stuff and feel happier etc.

“What we wanted to explore dramatically and thematically seemed almost impossible to set to music and to me that's a perfect springboard for writing something interesting and challenging! Both Streetwise Opera and Tête à Tête are doing a great job of tearing down the imaginary pillars of loftiness that elevate opera out of many people's reach, and this opera will hopefully sledge-hammer a few stones out too.

“In its early days, opera entertained the masses and then somewhere along the line people started associating it with classical literature, etiquette, fine dining and posh gloves. Of course that preconception has been dissolving in many circles throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, but it lingers on and people are still missing out on opera because they don't feel welcome. Whether your starting point is a story of courtly love from the ancient world or an anecdote about a London family watching a TV talent show, there's a way to pinpoint and magnify the beauty in the scenario and create an affecting art work in response.”

Click here to find out more about People Watch and book tickets.

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