MUSO by Impropera aims to inspire and develop a new level of engagement between audiences, the arts, academia and museums. It is the first of its kind of performance; an explosive collaboration between improvised opera and academia that places the audience at its centre. We caught up with Artistic Director David Pearl to find out more about the ground-breaking company as they prepare to open this evening.
What is Impropera’s mission statement?
Impropera was formed 12 years ago to bring together the power of operatic music and the spontaneity of improv. It’s turned out to be a pretty wonderful combination of musical virtuosity and surreal comedy. Our mission is a pretty simple one; to see our work touch as many audiences as possible.
Why and how did Impropera come into being?
It grew out of Opera Circus (a physical opera company I co-founded with Tina Ellen Lee in the 1990s). We used to use improv to devise material and to help release us from the formality of opera where you sing what you are taught. I had a hunch the audience might enjoy it and we did an experimental performance – in the street – as part of Covent Garden Festival and it went really well. I remember there were a couple of rough sleepers watching. And they’d had a few drinks. I was sure they’d heckle but instead they watched intently and had a great time. I thought, ‘we’re onto something here’. And the rest is history, as they say.
Why have you chosen to combine architectural and historical findings with music?
It all came from a chance meeting with Chiara Ambrosio from UCL. We met her at a British Library event called Festival of Sleep where we were both performing. She mentioned that UCL have these ‘hidden’ collections of art, of archaeology, of zoology… And this really intrigued us. What if we could take audiences in to explore these collections and then we’d sing about their discoveries. It was a way to use our improv skills to bring wonderful spaces to life
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced when developing MUSO?
The Museum and Theatre worlds do have similarities – we’re both in the business of inspiring the public, right? But they work very differently. And at different tempos. And finding a way to work together was a challenge initially. The other is that it doesn’t fit into an obvious category and so it takes some ingenuity to market. But once the audience arrive, they get it.
What do you hope the audience will gain from the experience?
When people come to our show in the theatre, we want them to leaving loving the show. When people come to Muso, we want them to leave loving the Museum and the treasures in it. And these treasures aren’t just the objects but also the amazing people who live and work in Museums. They can be wonderful, eccentric, brilliant characters who only come out to play when the visitors have gone home. It’s like Night At The Museum is real!
Tickets and more information about MUSO can be found here.