Together with local residents, Opera Zuid creates an annual community opera based on the lives and stories of people in Maastricht, with the Malpertuis district of Maastricht as its home base. The personal stories of the residents and music are brought together in these unique performances by director Tamara Jongerden, singing coach and assistant director Ginette Puylaert and musical director Tim Sabel to form the music-theatrical Buurt Opera Malpertuis (BOM).
But BOM is more. There is not only a special encounter between local residents and Opera Zuid and its surroundings. There will also be a surprising encounter between local residents, opera singers and young musicians from the Maastricht Conservatory. This makes BOM, in the words of director Tamara Jongerden, ‘a participatory, social, artistic music theater project, in which opera is used for, by, with and about the residents of the neighborhood themselves.’
Buurt Opera Malpertuis is an initiative of Opera Zuid in collaboration with Conservatorium Maastricht, Trajekt and the Kunstketel and is made possible in part by Cultuurmakers Maastricht, Fonds voor Cultuurparticipatie, Gemeente Maastricht, Elisabeth Strouven Fonds, Stichting Kanunnik Salden Nieuwenhof, Rabobank, De Schepper Delft Stichting, Postcode Loterij Buurtfonds, VSBfonds and the Oranje Fonds.
IN CONVERSATION WITH DIRECTOR TAMARA JONGERDEN
Quote socialworker Manon Pachen: ‘Improvisation is an important aspect. When local residents are given the freedom to do and say what they want, the most beautiful things arise.’
‘Certainly! This project is driven by input and improvisation from the participants. We have conversations about certain themes that we – Tim, Ginette and I – provide. In addition, we do playing, singing and improvisation exercises, so that you speak in another language about the same theme. I also have conversations with the local residents, about their lives, about what concerns them, what is going on. In those personal interviews I pay close attention to what and how people say. For example, I note their phrasing, the rhythm and tempo in which they talk. So the lyrics and movement phrases that are in the performance come directly from these interviews. The creative team translates the input of the participants, as it were. We abstract and stylize into an art form that the residents perform. And improvisation is an important part of that.’
‘Through this project, the local residents come into contact with opera much more than they were used to. They also come to appreciate opera more. Because we come together at Opera Zuid, they sometimes see rehearsals and they are invited to premieres. In addition, we also work with opera repertoire in our rehearsal process. And of course the participants themselves choose what they sing during the performance, such as with The Impossible Dream, music by Weill and Offenbach.’
Quote participant Thea:
‘Participating in this project has personally shown me that whatever problems come your way, there is always a place to be proud of yourself and have fun.’
‘Well said. We are of course real people, with struggles, imperfections and strength. At the neighborhood opera, the stage is the place to share something completely unique with an audience. That’s what I like best about BOM, that the participants really bring authenticity to music theatre. As far as I’m concerned, BOM is valuable for everyone involved. The local residents learn everything about text handling, acting, teamwork, voice use, musicality, but also about working attitude on the floor. These tools literally and figuratively give them a voice on stage.
‘I also think the added value for (many) participants and visitors is that they do not easily come into contact with the regular cultural offerings. That they now see: hey, I recognize that, or that is also theatre. I’m okay with that. And finally, I too am touched. It’s a huge reciprocal process. Although I lead, I learn from the participants as they learn from me.’