Bringing opera to Adelaide streets flash mob style

By Lauren Hermon

Big venues with theatrical backdrops and bright lighting are perfect for powerhouse opera performances, but local music theatre company, Various People, has an even bigger and more vibrant stage in mind – the streets of Adelaide.

P’Opera in the Mall, a project by Various People, will bring opera performances to people going about their every day lives in the city in “fun flash mob” style.

A flash mob is generally a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time – often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression – then quickly disperse.

However, P’Opera in the Mall will not be your usual flash mob performance nor is it a concept Various People has explored in the past.

For Cheryl Pickering, Various People artistic director, the project will tell ongoing stories about South Australians and their lives.

“The thing about flash mob is they bring the culture in from the outside. Many people descend on a certain place and perform something that is often rehearsed and then they leave,” Cheryl says.

“Our idea is more to create a show based on the people who inhabit a particular space, and then we’ll come back regularly on different days to continue with that story,” she adds.

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Cheryl Pickering says P’Opera in the Mall is about bringing to life the stories of South Australians

Whether young families, teenage boys or girls, business people or those sleeping rough on Adelaide streets, P’Opera in the Mall will create performances based around these life stories.

There are even plans to create a smartphone app to live stream the performances, as well share the locations and profiles of P’Opera in the Mall characters with the public.

While much of it is spontaneous, Cheryl says there will be seven or more P’Opera in the Mall storylines.

“You might be standing in a cue waiting for your cup of coffee to be poured and suddenly someone in front of you might start singing, or you might see a passionate couple break out in song after they’ve had an argument.

“You may feel compelled to come back to find out what happens next. It’s like an ongoing story and each will be a journey for people watching. We want people to watch and follow and have them really get to know the characters and start to care what’s going on.”

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P’Opera in the Mall will be different from Various People’s more traditional stage performances as pictured

The idea came from walking down Rundle Mall and chatting about “bringing opera into the street”.

“There’s such an elitist view of opera, but if you think of its roots, it’s a genre of music initially for the people,” Cheryl says.

“If we can demystify opera and bring it back to its cultural roots where it started which was originally for the people, then we can make it more fun and accessible,” she says.

Still in the early stages, Various People, who this week received a $5,000 Arts South Australia ArtPitch grant for its P’Opera in the Mall project, will soon discuss potential performance locations and storylines.