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Various Stages Festival 2020 - Open Call for projects

A showcase of boundary-pushing new opera and music theatre 

For the Various Stages Festival 2020, we are offering development support for three new projects. This will include resources for three days of workshop,  a dedicated artistic advisor to work with you as you develop your idea and  a public in-progress sharing at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London.

Whether you call your project opera, music theatre, music-driven performance or something else, we’re looking for any sort of creative endeavour that explores the interplay between music and other forms of live performance. To find out more about the Various Stages Festival and how to submit a proposal keep scrolling: 

Since 2014, the Various Stages Festival has grown from a series of workshops and small sharings into a public-facing festival. The Festival in February 2017 was launched through an open call that offered artists the opportunity to workshop new ideas and then share them at a public showcase, held at the ICA.    

The Various Stages Festival 2020 will broaden the scope of what we do, working in collaboration with more partners, bringing in artistic advisors to work with artists across their workshops and continuing to share our research and development practice with the cultural sector. We want to create a meeting place for artists and new ideas, whilst developing networks and markets for new opera and music theatre. 

In February/March 2020, we will workshop five new ideas with a range of artists, three of which will come to us through an open call. The Various Stages Festival will culminate in a showcase held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts on 19 March 2020. It will feature sharings, feedback sessions, panel discussions, pitches, as well as networking opportunities with national and international venues, promoters, artists and producers. 

We are offering workshops and a showcase for three project ideas to run alongside Mahogany Opera’s own works-in-progress.   

The projects will be selected by Mahogany Opera’s Artistic Director, Frederic Wake-Walker, Executive Manager, Ally Rosser and producer, Marc Dunleavy and the Various Stages Festival Artistic Advisors, Jamie Man  (composer and conductor), Jessica Walker  (performer, writer and educator) and Martin Berry  (director and head of participation at Nottingham Playhouse).  

What we will provide: 

  •  Space for up to three days of R&D per project in February/March 2020 – this does not necessarily have to happen in London, and we will work with you to find opportunities for these to happen locally to you, if that is preferable.  
  • Contribution of up to £2,000 towards personnel and materials for workshops – this does not include a fee for the lead artists involved in projects. Lead artist fees will be paid in addition and will be based on Mahogany Opera’s standard workshop fees.
  • An Artistic Advisor - Jamie Man, Jessica Walker or Martin Berry - working collaboratively with you through preparation, workshops and showcase. 
  •  Basic technical and administrative support. 
  •  Mahogany Opera to be on hand to collaborate as required, acting as a mentor and/or creative sounding board. 
  • A 40-minute showcase and feedback session for each project on Thursday 19 March at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London to an open audience.
  • The opportunity to meet and talk to producers, venues and programmers at the Various Stages Festival showcase. 

Our vision is for opera to be a collaborative, inclusive and dynamic artform and our mission is to stretch the boundaries of what opera can be and who it is for. 

  • We’re open to projects in various stages of development. Your idea may be just that – an initial idea or it may be something that has already received some funding and development. 
  • We would love to hear from artists working in any artform who wish to develop and share their practice and exchange ideas.
  • We are looking for ideas that challenge preconceived ideas and structures, develop new techniques and technologies and speak meaningfully to a contemporary audience.
  • We are interested in the quality of your work and your modes of expression, not simply where and with whom you have previously worked.
  • The open call is not open to artists/makers who are currently in undergraduate education. 
  • We work with a range of communities across our work and applications are actively encouraged from artists who reflect the diversity of our participants and audiences.  
  • We welcome applications from practitioners who consider themselves to be disabled and will make any reasonable adjustments required for any part of the open call process, and to support you in your role. 
  • While there is no fixed outcome beyond the showcase, we are interested in ideas that have the potential to be developed further in collaboration with Mahogany Opera. If we really knew what we were looking for then we wouldn’t be doing this open call! We want to be surprised and inspired by your idea. 

Applications open: Thursday 3 October 2019
Deadline: 5pm on Monday 25 November 2019 
Responses: Wednesday 4 December 2019 
Interviews: Wednesday 11 – Friday 13 December 2019, London, location (TBC) 
Interviews via telephone/Skype will be available where appropriate. 
Workshops: February/March 2020 
Showcase: Thursday 19 March 2020, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, SW1Y 5AH 


Applications in alternative formats will be accepted to support applicants with specific needs. Please contact our Executive Manager, Ally Rosser on or 020 3111 1940 if you have any questions concerning the application process. 

The Various Stages Festival 2020 is supported by Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant, PRS for Music Foundation (Talent Development Partnership) and the Britten-Pears Foundation.


A showcase of boundary-pushing new opera and music theatre

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