Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who we are

As individuals, we are Claudia Guastella and Jessie Holder, two budding soprani at the start of their professional operatic career. Well, kind of. Jessie’s professional operatic career started when she was 8, and Claudia just wishes she was that cool. We formed the Better Strangers Feminist Opera Collective at the start of 2010, having come to the conclusion that the best way to combat the desert of work available to soprani was to make some for ourselves.

Ah! Forget My Fate has been some time in the making. The idea germinated in the summer of 2010 and, after some development, finally took root at the start of 2011. It comes from a desire to explore several things: the history of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, widely considered to be the first opera ever written in English; the strengths and limitations of the soprano voice; the true boundaries of fach (i.e. the strength and range of a person’s voice); and the possibilities of a fringe opera with a cast of two and a crew of five. And, I suppose, Claudia’s passion for collecting headgear.

The world of opera is a harsh one. Far more soprani compete for roles than roles exist for them, and with ever more stringent industry standards governing appearance and age it is becoming increasingly more difficult to get a foot in the door. Even with the myriad female voice types in existence, there are only a very few types of roles available - still fewer are considered to be of majority interest. Female composers, directors and producers have little more success, and the disadvantages imposed on the basis of class, race, disability, gender identity and appearance do nothing to help. We at Better Strangers hope, simply, to create better chances for more women in classical music, focusing solely and exclusively on individual musical talent.

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