About Us

Our Story

Mahogany Opera Group is a leading commissioner and producer of new opera and music theatre. We work across the UK and internationally. Our vision of opera as an inclusive, collaborative, and dynamic artform informs our aim to stretch the boundaries of what opera can be and who it is for.

Through our work, we aim to:

• Share the power and joy of live music and theatre widely, demonstrating that opera can be relevant to and reflective of people’s lives

• Show that everyone is an artist with the potential to play a creative role in making and performing new opera

• Give children and adults the opportunity to experience opera in inclusive environments

• Support diverse artists to develop their practice, spark new connections and create work on their own terms

• Present new work which reflects and amplifies diverse perspectives and a multiplicity of voices

We achieve our aims through three programmes of work:

Snappy Operas is our flagship participatory young people's programme. We've commissioned 13 Snappy Operas which have been created by primary school children alongside leading composers and writers, and performed by over 4,500 young people in over 100 schools. Through this programme we deliver in-school activity, teacher training and public performances in communities across the UK and internationally.

Various Stages is our pioneering Research & Development programme through which we support diverse artists to develop their practice and careers, explore the process of making new opera in new ways, trial new ideas, and challenge convention. We deliver open calls, R&D workshops, mentoring, discussion events, and public showcases. Various Stages also helps us to identify new artists for commissioning projects. Since 2016 we have supported 115 artists through workshops, programmes of mentoring, and sharings.

Commissioning innovative work for the stage, we work with professional and non-professional artists in partnership with a wide range of organisations. Our commissions have been performed across the UK and internationally at a wide range venues and festivals. Since 2014 we have created 23 new commissions and toured them extensively, receiving many accolades and awards for our boundary-pushing and inclusive work.

Beyond the work itself, Mahogany Opera is a creative space for the development of new ideas and the sparking of new connections – a place where people can encounter music and theatre for the first time, where artists can forge new creative relationships and where time is given for research, reflection and discussion. Our approach is deeply collaborative and defined by people – by a belief that everyone involved has a creative role to play and that includes, crucially, the audience.

Bow Down

Why Mahogany?

Mahogany Opera was founded on principles inspired by the opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht. The intention of the opera was to change society and innovate the form of opera. Brecht’s accompanying note to Mahagonny was written in 1930 but still feels pertinent today. All too often, notes Brecht, opera strives to democratise without altering democracy’s fundamental character. i.e. giving people new rights but not the means to appreciate them. Brecht acknowledged the irony of critiquing opera by means of an opera – and Mahagonny is unashamedly an opera, full of all that Brecht wanted to criticise. The conclusion we take is that real change has to come from within. At times, this might seem like we’re cutting the branch we’re sitting on – yet we do so in the hope not of changing the existing system but of creating a new model of working that makes the old system obsolete.

O moon of Alabama, it’s time to say goodbye – We’ve lost our dear old Mama, And must have whisky oh you know why…

Mahogany Opera was founded in Edinburgh on 1 January 2003. Mahogany is an anagram of Hogmanay and it is with that spirit that we bring people together as friends for each performance or event to reflect on our shared experiences and look together into the dawning of a new future with hope.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’thine! And we’ll take a right good will draught, for auld lang syne.
Street Scene
Street Scene, Young Vic, 2011

The Backstory

Mahogany Opera was founded in 2003 by Frederic Wake-Walker and The Opera Group was founded in 1997 by John Fulljames. In 2014, the companies merged to become Mahogany Opera Group with Frederic Wake-Walker as artistic director. Previously, Mahogany Opera had produced extant work in site-specific spaces – most notably the Church Parables in the Hermitage, St Petersburg as part of the Britten Centenary and Russian Tales; Renard by Stravinsky and The Bear by Walton at the Village Underground, Shoreditch. The Opera Group was resident company at the Young Vic from 2008-2011 and commissioned and toured many new chamber operas across the UK and internationally. The Enchanted Pig by Jonathan Dove and The Firework-Maker’s Daughter by David Bruce both had extensive runs at the Linbury Studio ROH. Kurt Weill’s Street Scene won the Evening Standard Award when it opened at the Young Vic and went on to tour to the Chatelet, Paris and the Liceu, Barcelona.

Support Our Work

Mahogany Opera exists today because of the generosity of our supporters. People who help to create and to sustain and who bridge the gap between project funding and delivery costs.

Please consider joining us to help support and continue our work.

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