Breaking the Ice

By Chloe Lund, Birmingham Opera Company

This week, production rehearsals started. On Sunday, a team of top industry professionals, emerging artists and 150 volunteers from Birmingham met in a warehouse in Digbeth. A chorus of volunteers and a cast of professional opera singers sang Michael Tippett’s The Ice Break, whilst volunteer actors devised theatrical responses to the song. Their responses explored race, nationalism and mob mentality – all of which are encompassed in Tippett’s opera.

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I’ve spent the last couple of months working with people and organisations from all ten districts of Birmingham to ‘Break The Ice’ with opera. We’ve been singing with schools and hospitals, acting with mental health groups and homeless charities, leading discussions with youth groups, asylum seekers, and artists. Everyone has been invited to perform in the show. It has been very exciting to see so many people, who just weeks ago were telling me that opera wasn’t for them, now volunteering twice a week to make The Ice Break happen.

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The most amazing thing is that all this is powered by a big idea: that opera can speak to everyone and can really help society. The big idea seems to be understood and valued by everyone involved, and every single aspect of the production is bent from what is usual to that which fits the ideology. The unrestrained ambition and creativity of Birmingham Opera Company’s shows are, like so many of society’s great artists including Tippett, motivated by humanitarian concerns.

Breaking The Ice festival includes a number of events that will explore the idea of the social responsibility of the artist and address the question ‘ what can art do?’. I remember fretting over that question doubtfully when  I first considered a career in the arts, so it’s fantastic to now be involved with a company that offers such an optimistic answer.

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