In Autumn 2020, we announced that we would be creating our first-ever digital mini-opera, The Deer: A Story in 8 Chapters. Participants in our online sessions worked with director Emma Bernard, vocal leader Aga Serugo-Lugo and eight composers to co-create powerful lyrics, melodies and harmonies, centred around the story of a deer that is hit by a car.
“The Deer Rising” is the fifth chapter of this work. It focusses in on the moment when the deer, lying hurt on the ground, chooses to embrace courage, get up and overcome death. So when we decided to produce a digital performance towards the end of the last lockdown, this chapter seemed like an obvious choice.
The music and the vocals, co-created by Streetwise Opera performers and composer Pete Letanka, were recorded remotely by each performer, sometimes with the generous help of our amazing team of support workers, and then mixed by Rey Trombetta.
Four members of classical choir The Sixteen, generously recorded some vocals for this project.
The film was co-created by students from Teesside University’s Comics and Graphic Novels course, directed by course leader Julian Lawrence and director Emma Bernard, and with animation by Teesside Uni student Joe Punton.
Anita Ferguson, a participant in Streetwise Opera’s workshops in Manchester, said:
“I love our little Deer, writing her story and singing her song. I had breathing problems and struggled with my singing, and was so glad that I’d persevered and added my voice.I loved the creative writing stage and was thrilled to see that many of the words were mine. I didn’t think I could write well anymore. Somehow we worked together and could feel real empathy with one another, even sitting alone behind a screen – closely connected through the arts. We were all by her side, going on her difficult journey, rising above her hardships, at that dark time. When she got through it, and came back to life, we did too. There was hope and we shared it with her. We created her. I love our little fawn; she is ours.”
Denise Allison, a participant in Streetwise Opera’s workshops in London, said:
“Participating, composing, drawing and seeing the results was magic. Meeting other country performers was a great experience as it stretched our imaginations further. All started from Emma’s line and grew from there. Very happy to have joined everyone and excited to see the completed project. Thanks for the chance to have fun.”
Teesside University course leader Julian Lawrence said:
“Working with Streetwise Opera on The Deer Rising has been inspiring and moving. Right at the start of the process, once artistic director Emma Bernard, animator Joe Punton and I created a rough version of the film (called an animatic), I knew we were onto something special. The music, the visuals, and the love come together in this sweet little animated short.”
This digital performance was made possible thanks to support by Arts Council England, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Dulverton Trust, City Bridge Trust, Manchester City Council and Peter Sowerby Foundation.