From the moment I began as Artistic Director of OperaQ I have wanted to turn our vast and spectacular South Bank rehearsal studio – til now a hidden treasure – into a public space.
For performers and artists everywhere, at every stage of their careers, the studio is a haven. It’s where artists feel free to experiment, to test new ideas, to play, to go too far and (this is vital) to fail. Like a kitchen, it can get messy, and things can go wrong until eventually they go right. It’s a place where intense concentration, hard work, relationships and crazy ideas happen. And, importantly, the studio is where artists learn, and hone, their craft. When I’m directing, the rehearsal studio feels like home. Wherever I am in the world, I walk into the studio and feel a sense of anticipation, but also the thrill of “what might happen in here today?” Some of my most treasured and precious artistic experiences have taken place in the studio, with no audience other than the cast and creative team. Sharing those moments subsequently in the theatre, with all the technology, bells and whistles, for a large audience is wonderful – but the raw, visceral, close-up studio experience is special.
Turning our South Bank rehearsal space inside out will let us share some of those intimate studio moments with the world. So I’m thrilled that this week, in collaboration with our friends and neighbours at the Queensland Conservatorium on this pop-up adventure, Studio 4101. This is a huge leap in an exciting new direction for our company, and I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to my colleague Scott Harrison who has been onside with this adventurous plan from the very beginning and hasn’t missed a beat since. We have worked together on this idea because we both know that this is not just about opening cool new venue. We both wanted Studio 4101 to animate in the experience, the quality of the program and in the way we welcome audiences some of the principles we share:
· A passionate belief that creative partnerships are the way forward.
· The creative potential of our neighbourhood here in the South Bank cultural precinct,
· The creative potential of blurring the boundaries between art forms and, indeed, messing with the boundaries of the building we co-habit.
· A belief that the future of music performance depends on evolution. Opera might be 400 years old, but it evolves and rises to new challenges.
· It’s vital we create new performance opportunities for artists – both emerging and established – in new environments, for new audiences; and
· An understanding that audience trends are changing, and that people want places to gather together in a welcoming, relaxed and social hub to share music, ideas and good conversation in convivial company. A bar is vital, not an added extra.
This first weekend is something of an experiment: each evening boasts an offering by some of the Con’s emerging artists, a performance of Stravinsky’s The Soldiers’s Tale, and some mellow, late-night jazz. You might be wondering “so where’s the opera?” Well, I’d argue that The Soldiers’s Tale is thrilling music theatre, even with minimal staging and no singing, and that it’s great to experience emerging and established artists in other disciplines in our studio, to show that the space can be used for lots of things beside opera. But before we attempt staging anything more ambitious, we needed to test how the space works with audiences flowing through it, how the bar works, how the studio feels in performance mode – where the problems are and what we need for theatrical presentation.
An unconventional space like Studio 4101 is ideally suited for experimentation, multi-genre collaborations, alternative staging and works-in-progress – even themed social events. A studio is a place where anything can happen, and everything is possible. We still have significant funds to raise in order to realise our creative ambitions for Studio 4101. Eventually our hope is to purchase (rather than hire) technical equipment, lighting, seating, staging and so forth. The journey to a flourishing, fully-functional OperaQ Studio is just beginning.
One of OperaQ’s three central values is ADVENTURE. Our Strategic Plan states this boldly: “We are imaginative, adaptive and ambitious. We embrace bold ideas, big and small. We are not afraid to take risks, explore new territories. We plan and share creative adventures with like-minded partners.” Studio 4101 seeks to meet each of these ambitions.
With our partners, the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, we look forward to welcoming you to South Bank’s newest performance environment, Studio 4101.
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