Maltings chief bids to plug a gap with opera celebration

Matthew Rooke Chief Executive and Artistic Director of The Maltings Theatre & Cinema, Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Matthew Rooke Chief Executive and Artistic Director of The Maltings Theatre & Cinema, Berwick-upon-Tweed.
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The Maltings has launched an ambitious plan to fill the centre of Berwick with some of the world’s most beautiful music.

The new venture, called Berwick Festival Opera, aims to provide innovative and engaging new productions of well-known works at a scale best suited to a town of Berwick’s size.

There will be a particular emphasis on bringing experienced artists and emerging talent to work together in the town, not just at The Maltings, but in venues across town, including the Guild Hall.

Brainchild of The Maltings artistic director Matthew Rooke, the festival aims to “plug a gap” in Berwick’s cultural life, as well as attract visitors to the town.

“We piloted the idea last summer, and when our production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera ‘Trial by Jury’ sold out I knew that there was a gap in Berwick cultural life that we could meet,” Rooke explained.

Berwick Town Council has provisionally given its backing in the form of a £1,200 grant which will go towards the costs of staging part of the event at the Guildhall. “Berwick Guildhall has the most marvellous acoustics – perfect for classical music and yet it is not used as much as it should be,” Rooke said.

“One of the great challenges facing The Maltings is that there are so many competing demands to use our venue. This fabulous support from the town council enables us to take the risk of offering even more choice to people in Berwick over the summer, and serve the widest possible audience.”

The programme of four operas spans from Purcell to Wagner, and features Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutti and part of Wagner’s Die Walkure.

But the Berwick Festival Opera is about a lot more than the shows. “Whilst at first glance this might seem to be about opera it really is about the economic vibrancy of our town,” Rooke insisted.

“For example, for every one pound spent on a cinema ticket at The Maltings, we are stemming the flow of at least five pounds out of the local economy.

“We’re hoping the Berwick Festival Opera will help to lock in much more money than this in the town and attract an even wider range of summer visitors to help give people a reason to spend time, and money, in our town centre.”