Practical outcomes for Fringe Opera?

Edward Lambert, 8 June 2015

I was a butterfly most of the time, on the lookout for practical suggestions that stood a chance of being implemented in the near future. Not many of these to be found, lots of idealism, though. My area of interest is fringe opera, yet I was too knackered to attend the session that I'd called: ‘Why fringe opera?’ Instead I headed for ‘How do we keep it fun?’ to which my particular answer was to continue exploring: I had least fun at the treadmill of a large organisation churning out the same work from year to year, albeit at a high standard, and instead opted for outreach work and the creation of new small-scale pieces. So I'm now on the ‘fringe’ feeling desperately under-supported, both financially and morally, but having fun.

The most compelling practical suggestion I overheard during the weekend was for the large organisations to give their support to the small ones by, for example, carrying a calendar of events on their website and in their programme booklets. It was even suggested that when the ROH (for example) is sold out, there could be box office links to other suggested events in town.

A symposium of fringe opera companies was also suggested; there is the Opera & Music Theatre Forum but its members should get together more in a spirit of cooperation rather than competition. There is also in existence a ROH mentoring scheme - but this could be widened considerably to involve all members of the OMTF which has a ready-made database of small groups. Big and little should talk to each other and that should not be hard to organise. Our art form is primarily about communication: why doesn't the industry communicate more?

I overheard discussions about artists progressing from ‘fringe’ to the big stuff: how can such leaps be made? Yet I found it more interesting and helpful to consider how the big companies can reach out to the small ones. They have vast resources: if only we could tap into them!

Furthermore: the large organisations attract a wealth of support from donors - just a tiny fraction of this income diverted to small companies would make the difference between life and death. Donors could at least be made aware of fringe companies and the valuable work they do - not least in giving artists a platform in between studies at music college and starting a professional career. So - when you go shopping in Waitrose (!) you get tokens to donate to local charities. In the same way, a sponsor of a large organisation might be encouraged to pick a Fringe Company to support. “You've given us £50,000? Well here's a token to award £500 to one of the little companies on this list!”

The donor would get added kudos for inclusivity and accessibility and this process would save a hard-pressed administrator like me writing to hundreds of potential sponsors: after all, the most likely reason I would have to cease my activities will ultimately come down to lack of time.

Bring Fringe Opera out of the cold! for The Music Troupe


Musical, theatre, opera, Fringe, mentoring, Mentoring, teteatete, royaloperahouse, funding, Funding, THEATRE, communication, Opera, fringe, Communication, Theatre, musical

Comments: 2

Caroline Forster Anderson, 12 June 2015

Hi, I’m Caroline from the Opera and Music Theatre Forum (OMTF)

This overview and the reports Why Big Dogs and Little Dogs should be Friends and Producers - Bridging the Fringe and Larger Scale Companies, all raise important issues about infrastructure which have been the subject of much debate over the years. Some have raised more questions than answers in discussion but things change and it may well be time to revisit them. If any participants to this session would like to explore the issues raised in these reports further, OMTF is happy to arrange an informal, open discussion session, either following the event described below or on another occasion. Just mail me at [email protected]

A quick note to make here is that there is communication and co-operation between the big companies and the smaller scale sector, for example this D&D event itself, plus The Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne and ENO have all hosted events and conferences for OMTF which was established to promote the work of, advocate for, and provide a network of help, particularly to the smaller companies (


For example, we are running an event about Fundraising in London on July 31. The key contributors will be The Royal Opera House, Welsh National Opera, Glyndebourne and Scottish Opera who will be sharing their skills and expertise. It takes place during the Tête a Tête Festival and you can book via the front page of our website. We are a membership organisation but we have open events available to all and we keep in touch with the whole sector via Twitter – so do follow us on @OMTF!

Caroline Forster Anderson, 19 June 2015

OMTF is arranging an informal get-together in London to discuss some or all of these issues from 6pm on July 9 – do get in touch if you would like to join us! Contact me at [email protected] Pub venue tbc