The Voyage: raising awareness through opera

DOE The Voyage

talks to the director of Durham Opera Ensemble’s upcoming production of ‘The Voyage’

“How can we help even in the littlest way possible to help shun this culture of xenophobia?”

Durham Opera Ensemble’s offering for this term is truly unique. Using scenes and pieces from various operas it communicates the feelings encompassed through journeying and travelling, and most importantly how it feels to be forced to leave your home. ‘The Voyage – Scenes of Travel’ aims to raise awareness and funds for Unicef’s Humanitarian Action for Children, in particular for Syrian Refugees.

Crispin Lord, its director, explains the motivation behind this venture. “I was watching the Syrian refugee crisis appeals during summer; I was getting increasingly more angered that I couldn’t do anything about it. We’re so far away we can’t really do anything tangible.” Lord emphasises how hard it is to do something from a grass roots level in the United Kingdom which will had any real impact on those sufferings in places like Syria. ‘The Voyage – Scenes of Travel’ is essentially DOE’s answer to the question “how can we help even in the littlest way possible to help shun this culture of xenophobia?”

Lord’s favourite piece in the production is a chorus from Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner. “In the opera context it’s these pilgrims which are returning home, and these two friends are trying to find their friend Tannhäuser but he’s not there. Whilst these two solos are really sad and lamenting the loss of their friend, this chorus of pilgrims are coming home after their enormous yearlong pilgrimage, so there’s also a sense of relief.”

The production itself is a very collective process. “It’s really collaborative, which is really nice. If the singers realise it’s a collaborative process, it makes it more natural. My job is to bring out the character in people.” Lord has real belief in his cast. “They’re incredible. It’s one of the biggest casts we’ve had for a first term show. This cast is big and we’ve had a ball doing it, they’re incredible singers, all of them.” There’s also been a large intake of new DOE members. “There’s a lot of freshers and a lot of people who have been hiding in the woodwork.”

This spirit of collaboration very much frames the spirit and motivation behind the event. Lord cites the reaction to the recent attacks in Paris in social media as a key reason to spread a message of support towards all refugees and all those suffering. “As awful as the situation in Paris is, people are paying very little attention to areas like Beirut.”

Lord and DOE as a whole hope to draw attention to the feeling of displacement of home which is not particular to a single crisis, and happens all over the globe. The production itself looks very promising. However, the most promising aspect of this production is that with it DOE may encourage more of a culture throughout Durham of treating the stage and theatre as a means to provoke more than just simply entertainment.

‘The Voyage – Scenes of Travel’ will performed from Fri 20 Nov till Sun 22 Nov at Caedmon Hall, Hild Bede. Book tickets here

Photograph: Crispin Lord

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