FUSED in Thurrock


EXG JUL 15 FUSED - Credit: Archant

Purfleet will once again resound with music in July when the Royal Opera House’s FUSED festival returns. Jules Easlea shares with us some of the exciting plans for this unique event

FUSED celebrates the talents of the people of Thurrock and takes place from Friday, July 3 to Saturday, July 11. Now in its fourth year, the week-long festival offers a great range of performances and activities for music lovers as well as opera and ballet fans to enjoy, and this year celebrates costume too.

Gabrielle Forster-Still, deputy head of learning and participation for Royal Opera House Thurrock, explains: ‘Fused has developed from having a focus on purely vocal work with workshops and master classes in its first year, to now encompass so much more and is a real showcase for the skills and talents of the communities we work with in Thurrock. The festival this year will be even more diverse with costume, music, dance and our Trailblazer schools involved. Each year is different, reflecting how the Royal Opera House in Thurrock is changing as we develop in the area and discover more about the people who come to sing and participate with us. It is a fantastic celebration of the dedication of the ROH Thurrock Community Chorus and RM19 members, and we are proud to be sharing once again one of our great opera productions, Don Giovanni. We are also tremendously excited this year to look forward to the new Costume Centre opening in the autumn.’

FUSED begins with a fantastic opportunity to see a spectacular production by The Royal Opera of Mozart’s Don Giovanni relayed live from Covent Garden to the BP Big Screen at the High House Production Park on Friday, July 3. Don Giovanni is a reckless libertine, seducing his way across Europe. But when he commits murder, has Don Giovanni set off a dark chain of events even he cannot escape? Star baritone Christopher Maltman’s dazzling performance in the title role is matched by the innovation of this exciting production, which uses the latest in stage technology and set design to tell the thrilling tale.

The BP Big Screens live relays are free and there is no need to book. The High House Production Park will be open from 5.15pm with stalls in the orchard and a free mask-making workshop. The pre-performance programme begins at 6.30pm with exclusive backstage films, competitions and live interviews. Why not bring a blanket, a picnic and let the wonderful music transport you?

On Thursday, July 9 and Friday, July 10, it is the turn of the people of Thurrock to show off their singing abilities at the Civic Hall in Grays. The splendid Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus and RM19, the Royal Opera House Thurrock’s energetic and enthusiastic youth vocal group, come together for the first time for All Change.

Taking inspiration from the new Royal Opera House Bob and Tamar Manoukian Costume Centre which is set to open in the autumn at High House Production Park, All Change is a new production that combines chorus numbers from existing repertory with new imaginings of existing pieces in an exploration of some of the timeless themes of opera. Expect old favourites woven together with some never-before-heard pieces to take you on a journey of change.

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The Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus has become an important part of life for many of its members. Eddy Archer, a chorus member from Tilbury, loves adding his voice to it. ‘Since I retired two years ago, the Thurrock Community Chorus has given me a new lease of life. It’s not only the singing but the voluntary work I’m now involved in,’ says Eddy. Volunteers undertake much of the running of the chorus: each section, such as the tenors, has its own representatives who help organise rehearsals, transport to performances and distribution of music scores. They are vital to the smooth running of the chorus which is now more than 140 voices strong.

During the spring, Thurrock residents came together in a series of community workshops to create costumes for All Change. Led by costume designer Lesley Ford, they produced a host of props, accessories and costumes, from umbrellas dripping with blossom to up-cycled shirt dresses, and from floral garlands to £50 notes (pretend, of course). From experienced needle workers to complete beginners, Lesley drew out their talents and taught them new skills.

For the close of the festival, everyone is invited to a Costume Party. On Saturday, July 11, from noon until 4pm, the High House Production Park will be a riot of colour as the site is taken over by costumes. There will be workshops to make your own outfits and accessories, and costumes from the Royal Opera House to try on. You can meet the opera diva Carmen, watch the Firebird dance and strut your stuff on the virtual catwalk while prizes will be up for grabs for the best catwalk selfie. Just dress up in a wild, whacky outfit and join in the fun.

The Costume Party will involve the whole High House site with the Backstage Centre, Kinetika, Thurrock Music Services and the High House Artists’ Studios all taking part. The Park has beautiful walled gardens, an orchard, an ancient dovecote and restored barns to explore, which is an unexpected treasure.

Jillian Barker, director of learning and participation at the Royal Opera House, is full of enthusiasm for the festival. She says: ‘I’m delighted that the FUSED Festival returns for the fourth year running, showcasing the vast array of creative work that happens on site at the High House Production Park and across Thurrock all year round. This year it is especially exciting that the Royal Opera House’s two Thurrock-based choirs, the Thurrock Community Chorus and the Youth Vocal group RM19, will be performing together for the very first time. We also look forward to welcoming classes from the 21 Thurrock Trailblazer schools, celebrating their first year working with us with performances for friends and family, and the Costume Party will definitely be a really fun day for everyone of any age to get involved in.’

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