‘HerStory’ – A co-created opera for World Parkinson’s Day

In May 2021, as part of our research into opera co-creation, I arranged a meeting between some of the Traction artists and HerStory, an opera project with people living with Parkinson’s disease. We met the composer, Amy Mallet, and project director, Nicola Wydenbach, and shared a fascinating conversation about their experience of developing the project, before and during the pandemic. Now, all that work has come to fruition with the release of a new opera film to mark World Parkinson’s Day on 11 April. Here’s what Amy and Nicola say about the work: 

The HerStory opera began its journey in an artist residency and workshop performance at Snape Maltings in 2019, after which its cast of community performers expressed their aspirations to use the piece to “show the world what people with Parkinson’s can do”. 

During the pandemic, a series of online projects led by Cohere Arts offered a valuable way of keeping cast members connected and active, whilst developing additional material for the opera. The HerStory community continued to grow as activity reached more participants living across the UK. In 2022, supported by Arts Council England and partners Britten Pears ArtsEnglish National OperaTrinity Laban and MuMo Creative, we began the process of turning HerStory into a film. 

A series of singing, dance and visual art workshops were held in Suffolk, London, Sussex, Oxford and online, enabling 120 members of the Parkinson’s community to develop and learn repertoire from the opera. Then in November 2022, filming sessions were held in six different locations across the UK. The finished film features the performances, voices and artwork of 85 people living with Parkinson’s. In the piece, dance, music and animation are combined to explore themes of love, separation, seasons and journeys

You can watch the film online here, and read more about the process and also about their other on the Cohere Arts website

Thanks to Cohere Arts for the images in this post.