News: Constella OperaBallet brings Darley Abbey heritage to life in Spin a Tale

Constella OperaBallet have worked in partnership with Derbyshire’s Darley Abbey to bring its heritage to life through a series of seven short films with newly commissioned dance, music and drama. Spin A Tale has been made in collaboration with Darley Abbey residents and performed by singers, dancers and actors from Constella OperaBallet with participation from local choirs, the Derby-based Déda Youth Company, the University of Derby, and local primary schools. The piece brings together several hundred people in this incredible multi-disciplinary celebration of the arts.

Along with Constella’s own Artistic Director and composer Leo Geyer, the films have been led by a renowned team of young creatives including choreographer Sarah-Louise Kristiansen whose company ‘Making Dance Happen’ was established in order to provide development opportunities for young artists to work worldwide; writer and director Ruth Mariner who is the founder of The Librettist Network where she nurtures a new generation of opera-makers with Royal Opera House and National Opera Studio; designer Holly Pigott who was a finalist in the Linbury Prize for Stage Design and has worked for companies such as the Royal Opera House and Young Vic; and costumier Sebastian Freeburn whose work has featured at London Fashion Week.

Darley Abbey is home to the most complete surviving 18th Century Mill complex in the world, built by the Evans family, and the series of ‘Moments’ highlight different aspects of the Abbey’s history, including the mill workers, architecture, nature, community, the River Derwent and the village’s place in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The films include Water Hymn is an opera-ballet performance celebrating the power of water and paying homage to the unceasing energy of the River Derwent that gave power to the former cotton industry. While Tangled is a contemporary dance shot in beautiful slow motion featuring a solo dancer entwined in thread and Brick Row is a music-drama showcasing a snapshot of 18th century life in Darley Abbey. Brick Row is dedicated to Jane Manning OBE (1938 – 2021), an extraordinary soprano who gave over 350 world premieres of contemporary music and supported Constella as a patron encouraging daring and ambitious artistry.

In partnership with Darley Abbey Day 2021 and Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, Spin a Tale includes the premiere of Darley Abbey’s very own song performed by children at Walter Evans Primary School, as well as giant decorated bobbins, and threads of bunting, all created in collaboration with the local community.

Leo Geyer, artistic director, Constella OperaBallet said, Spin a Tale has been two years in the making and has undergone many twists and turns as we’ve navigated through the pandemic. I am therefore exceptionally proud of Constella’s artistic team, the Darley Abbey community and partner organisations for their unrelenting creative energy. Together, we have found ingenious ways to collaborate and bring together several hundred people in an ambitious, interdisciplinary celebration of Darley Abbey.

Organisers of Darley Abbey Day are inviting people to find their favourite Bunting Flag and “Count the Bobbins”, which will be installed in the village from 8th to 23rd May. The oversized Bobbin installations will be located in Darley Abbey, together with bunting made by the local community responding to the themes of Spin A Tale. Pupils at Walter Evans school have been busy making to help create a socially distanced trail around the village. There are also fundraising opportunities to support St Matthew’s Church and the Community Hall.

Professor Ian Whitehead, Chair of the Derwent Valley Mills Great Place Scheme said, Constella OperaBallet’s contribution to Darley Abbey Day is the last of three major arts commissions for the World Heritage Site’s Great Place Scheme, programmed by Beam. It will be fascinating to see these talented artists in collaboration with the community, bring the unique history of Darley Abbey to life through dance, music, drama and film, thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England.

Spin a Tale launches on Saturday 8th May 2021, and will remain online in perpetuity.

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