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£1,961
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33
backers
25days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Tue, May 14 2019 11:00 PM UTC +00:00.

ImprobableBy Improbable
First created
ImprobableBy Improbable
First created
£1,961
pledged of £10,000pledged of £10,000 goal
33
backers
25days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Tue, May 14 2019 11:00 PM UTC +00:00.

About

We are Improbable, and we want to help change the future of contemporary opera and music in theatre. What relevance does opera and theatre have in building our collective future? How can traditionally more hierarchical art-forms engage with the urgent questions of today and tomorrow?

Improbable’s work takes dreaming seriously. It imagines new possibilities and uses processes that allow people to truly create, work, heal and transform. Dreaming is political and renders art possible. It makes being alive worthwhile. 

Since 1996, we’ve made many pieces of theatre in this way. With your support, we want to take this spirit and inject it into music and operatic work, making it current, conscious and inclusive. Future Sounds is about doing this: two community projects and two brand-new productions over the next three years, alongside leading artists like Joyce DiDonato, Anthony Roth Costanzo and Philip Glass

Anthony Roth Costanzo as Akhnaten at the English National Opera. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith.
Anthony Roth Costanzo as Akhnaten at the English National Opera. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith.

The last decade has seen us start to collaborate with major opera houses on existing works, and the results have been distinct and immersive. Now, we want to go further, making our own productions and creating new kinds of operatic practices for stages worldwide. This campaign celebrates the launch of that journey. We would love for you to be a part of it.  

Future Sounds is a three-year programme of work that includes:

Tao of Glass with Philip Glass. Where does true inspiration come from? Composer Philip Glass and performer-director Phelim McDermott have worked together on acclaimed opera productions in London, New York and beyond. Tao of Glass is their most personal collaboration yet, and the first time that Phelim has stepped on-stage with Philip’s music. Inspired by a dream, Tao of Glass marries ten meditations on life, death and Taoist wisdom with ten brand new pieces of music from Glass; a storytelling tapestry, soundtracked by Glass’s mesmerising music and shot through with Improbable’s trademark theatricality. It will be co-directed by Kirsty Housley and staged with an ensemble of musicians and puppeteers. This campaign will enable Improbable to be a co-commissioner and co-producer of the work. 

A new show with Joyce DiDonato. We’re collaborating with international opera superstar Joyce DiDonato on a new project, combining opera, new music commissions, poetry, physical theatre and visual splendour to create a wholly original, unforgettable experience. This Kickstarter campaign will help support the development of this piece. 

Discovering Akhnaten. Later this year we’re heading to New York's Metropolitan Opera with Akhnaten, our version of Philip Glass’ opera made in collaboration with ENO, LA Opera and the Gandini juggling troupe. With your support, we’ll use the production as a springboard for creating a large scale community project. Working with countertenor Anthony Roth Constanzo and the Gandini jugglers, we’ll bring together 120 adults & young people from across the five boroughs to create their responses to Akhnaten’s story, which we’ll then stage at the Brooklyn Museum. 

Devoted & Disgruntled: What are we going to do about the future of music theatre?  Since 2005, Improbable’s Devoted & Disgruntled events have brought together thousands of people to work on key questions in theatre and the performing arts. With your support, we’ll head to Northampton’s Royal & Derngate (UK) – home to a three-year project to reinvigorate mid-scale music-theatre – for a D&D on the future of music, theatre and opera. Who is it for? How do we make it? And how can we work better together? 

"A new language requires a new technique. If what you're saying doesn't require a new language, then what you're saying probably isn't new." Philip Glass  

Puppetry in the rehearsal room for Satyagraha at English National Opera. Photo: Keith Pattinson.
Puppetry in the rehearsal room for Satyagraha at English National Opera. Photo: Keith Pattinson.

Over 23 years, we have made some category-defying pieces of theatre. From delicate pieces like Animo, where newspapers become swans and bristle brushes become creatures...

The company of Animo, 1996.
The company of Animo, 1996.

...to shows improvised on stage every night like Lifegame (1998; 2004), where the bare bones of interviewees’ life stories are transformed into a theatrical biography. Or Lost Without Words (2017) at the National Theatre, where older actors in their 70s and 80s draw on lifetimes in theatre as material for an improvised show. 

Each of these productions have placed awareness at the heart of the creative process. We have done this in theatre for many years, but opera has whole new kinds of potential for engaging audiences in new ways: its many components – music, orchestra, design, singing – have flirted with us as a theatre company who love to create spectacle. We’ve transformed the face of British theatre, but we’ve only dipped our toes into the world of opera.  

What if the first time someone experienced an opera was as a baby? BambinO: an operatic adventure for 6-18 month olds. Photo: James Glossop.
What if the first time someone experienced an opera was as a baby? BambinO: an operatic adventure for 6-18 month olds. Photo: James Glossop.

We’re incredibly excited by the Future Sounds projects we’ve put together so far (and hope to announce more new works before too long). However, the scale of the projects is vast, and stepping into the world of opera and music-theatre as a producer requires a lot of resources. We’re not a major opera house with a large venue; we’re a small touring theatre company with great artistic relationships and big ambitions. Your support will help secure the next two years of a programme that places process, improvisation, spontaneity and awareness at the heart of music and opera’s contemporary oeuvre. 

With your support, we hope to raise £10,000 towards the Future Sounds programme. Specifically, this will enable us to be an official co-commissioner and co-producer of Tao of Glass; support the development of a new show with Joyce DiDonato in 2019/20, including commissioning new pieces of music and supporting an album recording; partner with the Metropolitan Opera New York on Discovering Akhnaten; and host a one-day Devoted & Disgruntled on music theatre with Royal & Derngate Northampton.

Of course, we’ll need to raise more than £10,000 to deliver the full programme – but your support at this crucial stage, when some of the projects are little more than ideas bubbling through, will help us to hit the ground running and unlock future funding. 

Phelim McDermott

Phelim is a founder member of Improbable. He has won various awards such as an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment, TMA Awards for Best Touring Production and Best Director and a Critics Circle Best Designer Award. He was awarded a National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts fellowship and an Honorary Doctorate from the Middlesex University. He is also a father and a husband.

Joyce DiDonato

Kansas-born Joyce DiDonato entrances audiences and critics across the globe in operas ranging from Mozart and Handel to Rossini, Donizetti, Berlioz and Heggie. Winner of the 2018 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, she is a multi-Grammy Award recipient and a fierce advocate for the arts. Her solo albums include 'In War & Peace: Harmony Through Music', which won the 2017 Best Recital Gramophone Award.

Philip Glass

Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times. His operas – Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten among many others – play throughout the world’s leading houses. Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music – simultaneously.

Anthony Roth Costanzo

Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo began performing professionally at the age of 11 and has since appeared in opera, concert, recital, film, and on Broadway. He has performed the title role in Phelim McDermott's Akhnaten with English National Opera. He has appeared with many of the world’s leading opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Los Angeles Opera, Glyndebourne Opera Festival, and Teatro Real Madrid.  His debut album, ARC, on Decca Gold was nominated for a 2019 GRAMMY Award, and he is Musical America’s 2019 vocalist of the year. 

Example of artworks in Tao of Glass storyboard, hand-drawn by Phelim McDermott
Example of artworks in Tao of Glass storyboard, hand-drawn by Phelim McDermott
A selection of Marit Baarslag artworks and portfolio sketches, exclusive to this campaign
A selection of Marit Baarslag artworks and portfolio sketches, exclusive to this campaign

Risks and challenges

Attempting to change the world by making opera and music theatre shows is full of risks and challenges - that’s what makes it exciting!

Each of the four projects has its own risks and challenges - they all rely on working with other partners, venues and producers to make them happen. We’ve been talking to these partners about the work in Future Sounds for a long while and have already overcome many of the main challenges - securing spaces, assembling the teams, planning the projects.

One of our big remaining challenges is securing the funds for Improbable to play a full part in the projects, and we are fundraising from many places including through this campaign. If we don’t secure this money then we won’t be able to hold a Devoted & Disgruntled in Northampton and Improbable won’t be able to be part of Discovering Akhanten in New York. We also wouldn't be able to support development work with Joyce DiDonato or be a co-commissioner of Tao of Glass. With your help, we hope we can get there.

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    Pledge £10 or more About US$ 13

    Principles of Open Space

    For £10, receive a digital download of the 'Open Space' principles that Improbable use to make work: in the rehearsal room and in life. Hand-drawn by co-Artistic Director Phelim McDermott. Plus your name on our website.

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    Pledge £20 or more About US$ 26

    Printed story board cards: Tao of Glass

    A unique scene-by-scene depiction of Tao of Glass, designed especially for Kickstarter backers by Improbable's co-Artistic Director, Phelim McDermott. Plus your name on our website.

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    Pledge £30 or more About US$ 39

    Limited-edition set of postcards

    Six exclusive, never-before-seen Future Sounds images, including hand-written sheet music from Tao of Glass, insights from research and development with Joyce DiDonato and glimpses of Improbable productions backstage. Plus your name on our website.

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    Pledge £50 or more About US$ 65

    Tao of Glass rehearsal video

    Special footage of Philip and Phelim developing Tao of Glass in the rehearsal room. An exclusive video sent privately to you. Plus your name on our website.

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    Pledge £75 or more About US$ 97

    Signed limited-edition print

    A still of Philip at the piano in the Tao of Glass rehearsal room, signed by the composer himself, exclusively for our Kickstarter supporters. Plus your name on our website.

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    Pledge £100 or more About US$ 130

    A poem from Anthony Roth Costanzo

    A special video sent privately to you of Anthony reciting one of the poems to have inspired the Future Sounds projects. Plus your name on our website.

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    Pledge £125 or more About US$ 162

    Framed story board artwork

    Hand-drawn story board artworks by Tao of Glass performer and co- creator, Phelim McDermott. No photo-copying here! Your story-board will be individually hand-drawn for you and framed. Plus your name on our website.

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    Pledge £175 or more About US$ 227

    Tickets to Tao of Glass

    Tickets to see Tao of Glass, for you and a friend. Plus your name on our website. NB: must be able to attend performance in Manchester on either 16th OR 20th July 2019.

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    Pledge £225 or more About US$ 292

    VIP experience at Tao of Glass

    Welcomed by Improbable team; a signed programme and a glass of prosecco, tickets to see Tao of Glass for you and a friend. Plus your name on our website. NB: must be able to attend performance in Manchester on either 16th OR 20th July 2019.

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    Pledge £275 or more About US$ 357

    Future Sounds in a bottle

    Incredibly limited-edition creations, exclusively for this campaign. Handmade by German artist Marit Baarslag, these little bottles hold the essence of Improbable’s spirit...each contain a tiny book made with a silkscreen cover and leaves. They are also engraved with embroidered end bands and stitched with a reading ribbon, customised for Future Sounds. Plus your name on our website.

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    Pledge £500 or more About US$ 650

    VIP: meet the creative team

    A pair of tickets to see Tao of Glass with exclusive invitation to a drinks reception with the creative team after the show. Plus your name on our website. NB: must be able to attend performance in Manchester on either 16th OR 20th July 2019.

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    Pledge £650 or more About US$ 845

    Hand-painted composition

    "Just because you don't see something, doesn't mean it isn't there". Choosing this reward will mean you receive one of five paintings created for this campaign. German artist Marit Baarslag is responding to themes from this campaign, in alcohol ink works, around our natural environment. Exclusively for Future Sounds supporters, plus your name on our website. NB: only 5 available.

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    Pledge £900 or more About US$ 1,169

    Hand-crafted egg cup

    An eggceptionally rare reward... Hand-crafted by artist Marit Baarslag, this is a porcelain egg cup created in the style of BambinO, our opera for babies which tells the story of Uccellina, a bird who finds an egg that grows to a magical size. The only one of its kind in the world, this reward brings a snippet of the Future Sounds' aesthetic to your mantlepiece.

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    Pledge £1,200 or more About US$ 1,559

    A truly improbable portrait

    You know artwork. You know notebooks. You know superstar countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. Imagine the three brought together (yes, really). To celebrate Future Sounds, artist Marit Baarslag is making an extraordinary hand-crafted miniature notebook: a facial profile of Anthony cut on natural paper, hand-bound with embroidered end-bands and a reading ribbon.

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    Pledge £1,500 or more About US$ 1,949

    VIP: rehearsal room access

    Access to the rehearsal room of Tao of Glass in London, June 2019. Meet the creative team. Plus a pair of tickets to see the show in Manchester. NB: must be able to attend performance in Manchester on either 16th OR 20th July 2019.

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