Zeppelin Dreams

English Touring Opera

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

****

NEARLY a hundred years after a massive German airship bombed part of the Black Country killing 34 people, the terrifying and almost forgotten event of the First World War has been marked by the region’s very own community opera.

Billed as a world premiere, it was created in a special partnership between the English Touring Opera, the Grand Theatre and the Wolverhampton Music Education Hub, with four ETO members leading the cast of more than 150 drawn mainly from local schools, the theatre’s adult group, university students and the handicapped.

Three performance were given, ending on Friday night, with words of the songs shown on two large television screens either side of the stage, and shots of the Zeppelin created by animations and sound from the Azaad Dhol Drummers.

Heading for Liverpool Docks on January 31, 1916, the airship became lost in fog and instead unleashed its bombs on Walsall, Tipton, Bradley and Wednesbury, when victims included the Mayoress of Walsall, Mary Julia Slater.

The opera focuses on sweethearts William and Maud Fellows (they had the same surname), played by ETO members Casey-Joe Rumens and Austine Broad, who were killed on the banks of the Wolverhampton Union Canal, and music was composed by Rachel Leach, though a couple of numbers from the musical Oh What A lovely War were used. The Wolverhampton Music Education Hub Orchestra also contributed.

There was an emotional ending to the opera, with some of youngsters naming the 34 victims while placing large poppies on the front of the stage.

Paul Marston 

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