Theatre in Wales

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Wanted: women from Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown to star in new opera about their lives     

Wanted: women from Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown to star in new opera about their lives Welsh National Opera is looking for women in Cardiff to take part in an innovative new project that will see their lives transformed into an opera.

Bay Women Singing will recount the experiences of women living in the Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown areas of the city through a 35-minute cycle of songs – written and performed by the women themselves.

The mini-opera will be devised through a series of workshops where a professional composer and poet will help 40 women explore poetry and music, equipping participants with the skills needed to transform their stories into musical form.

The end result will be performed on July 12, with a 10-minute sneak preview at Wales Millennium Centre on June 7 as part of Welsh National Opera’s Open House weekend, which gives the public a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes at an opera company.

Åsa Malmsten works for WNO Max, which brings opera beyond the main stage. She said: “We are trying to create a musical map of the area. We feel lots of women in these communities don’t often get the chance to get involved in projects like this. It is an opportunity to express themselves and improve their confidence by going to the sessions and performing, as well as meet new people.

“The poetry workshops and musical workshops will result in a 35-minute song cycle based on the women’s stories. It is their piece; they are creating and writing it.”

WNO Max still has places left for women interested in getting involved.

Åsa said: “The women need to be over 18, although there is no upper age limit and no musical experience is necessary. We want women who are willing to share their traditions, backgrounds and stories, talking about their experience of motherhood, having children, food, and culture.

“Opera doesn’t have to be people singing in fancy costumes on stage, it’s about people wanting to sing, being able to sing. We want people to know that opera is accessible to them. We want people to be comfortable about coming to an opera at WMC.

Renowned performance poet Clare Potter will be working with the women on creating lyrics, while composer Stacey Blythe will be helping them set it to music.

Stacey said: “The opportunity to create something that the women have absolute ownership of is a pure drive for me as a musician. I know how I feel when I write music – it is such an experience, and it will be the same for the women taking part in this project.

“Singing in a group is a very special thing. It’s almost like being at a great party with all your mates. It’s like exercise; it makes you feel better. And sharing an incredibly personal work with other people is touching. It will be a really exciting piece of work.

“When you talk about community art, people wrongly presume it is about well-meaning people coming into a community and giving them art. I am completely opposed to that, we are all working together, it is their work in a choir, we will be making a serious commitment, like a family, working and rehearsing together.

For more information on getting involved in Bay Women Singing, contact Åsa Malmsten on 029 2063 5063 or email

A taster session of what people can expect from the workshops will be held between 12.30pm and 2pm on March 8 at The Museum of Welsh Life in St Fagan’s, where the event will be launched in conjunction with the Women’s Arts Association’s Postcards From Home project, as part of International Women’s Day. For more information on Women’s Arts Association, see
Welsh National Opera  
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Åsa Malmsten
Wednesday, February 6, 2008back



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