Sunderland gets ready to hit the high notes with An Opera for Sunderland

1 October 2014

David Almond (c) North News

Sunderland gets ready to hit the high notes with An Opera for Sunderland!
October 2014

Drama, teamwork, passion, training… opera and football have more in common that you might think. So what better subject for Wearside's first opera than Sunderland AFC?

An Opera for Sunderland is being commissioned by Opera Sunderland.  Every good opera needs a great story, something people can really identify with. Sunderland AFC is at the heart of the city both physically and emotionally, and football will be at the heart of the operatic story.

Enter award-winning North East author David Almond,

This is such a great opportunity to create an opera for everyone. I love football, I love opera, I Iove the North East. Football is imbued with operatic language and emotion: saviours and messiahs, destiny and miracles, glory and disappointment, joy and despair. It has a wonderful soundscape: the singing, the groaning, the cheering of crowds. 

“I aim to write a story that embodies the passion of football, that focuses on Sunderland AFC and its great supporters, that draws on the club's great history, and that is filled with the poetic accent, rhythms and dialect of north eastern speech. “

Coming from the home of one of Europe's biggest clubs, international award-winning composer Marcos Ferndandez knows that football and its fans can be the very lifeblood of a city.

“I am very much looking forward to composing this new opera for the people of Sunderland, with football at the heart of the story. It is a community I feel is similar to my own in the city of Barcelona, where football also plays a big role in society.”

Sunderland-born Artistic Director Alison Barton adds,

I remember the atmosphere in Sunderland when the Black Cats won the FA cup in 1973. It was like an electric current running right through every home, school, workplace and street. Bobby Kerr even visited my school. Everyone felt part of it.” 

“The next time I felt that way was on stage as a teenager, appearing in my first opera. Sadly over the years, the opportunities for people in the region to experience that same thrill dwindled, but now, thanks to an award from Arts Council England, Music in the Minster is creating an Opera for Sunderland, set in the world of football. Parallels between football and opera are legion. The elite performers in both dedicate their lives to training and discipline – but anyone can 'have a go'.” 

As with all of our work, An Opera for Sunderland is all about local people taking part – from sharing their stories, to workshops and performance opportunities. Working with Foundation of Light and The Cultural Spring, we plan to involve as many local residents as possible, starting with Black Cat Stories – giving fans the opportunity to create digital stories about their experiences as supporters, creating a snapshot of what football means to people in the city.

Black Cats Stories is a great opportunity for Sunderland fans to share some of their wonderful tales from following the club. We're very excited about getting this project underway and look forward to hearing from people wanting to take part.”
Phil King, Foundation of Light

"We think the Music in the Minster opera project is an exciting one for Sunderland. The community engagement work is complementary to work The Cultural Spring has been engaged in over the past year, so we're delighted to offer our support. We look forward to a successful and fruitful collaboration."
Rebecca Ball, Project Director, The Cultural Spring

An Opera for Sunderland will premiere at Sunderland Minster in November 2015.