A powerful new female-led opera, HER DAY will premiere in Coventry in March 2022 to mark International Women’s Day 2022 and as part of Coventry UK City of Culture.

Written by Sayan Kent (composer/music) and Vanessa Oakes (librettist/words), this new opera will be premiered in Coventry on 8th March on International Women’s Day.

HER DAY puts a spotlight on the lives of ordinary Coventry women engaged in everyday acts of peaceful protest. Four distinct stories shared at a weekly friendship group give a moving and at times very funny insight into women’s daily lives and our common need for connection.

Vanessa and Sayan are Coventry based artists passionate about bringing opera to the local area and encouraging new audiences.

Vanessa Oakes, librettist, said: 

“Even though I had free school meals and was raised by my widowed mother in a council house, I never once felt deprived as a child. I had a fantastic childhood growing up in Exhall, but sometimes, just sometimes, I’d catch a glimpse into another world. At Christmas I got to experience opera on television. I didn’t always understand what I was watching, but I could feel the emotion and I connected with it. And, from the very first time, I was hooked. To be able to premiere an opera that I’ve written in Coventry, just down the road from where I grew up, is really special.”

HER DAY centres on the experiences of Coventry women, with the stories inspired by workshops held at Foleshill Women’s Training, Coventry Haven Women’s Aid, Soroptimist International – Coventry, Cygnet Psychiatric Hospital, Pastor Suzzy’s over 50’s lunch club, House of Empowerment and St Andrews Care Home.

Women across Coventry have also explored design for performance, and the opera includes a community chorus of local female singers.

Chorus member Gemma-Louise Sharman said: 

“Being a part of the chorus for Her Day has been exhilarating, meeting some lovely people along the way. As well as having the opportunity to try something new.  I’m looking forward to seeing my first ever opera and seeing how it comes together.”

The opera will be directed by Lucy Bradley (Royal Opera House, OperaUpClose, Glyndebourne) with music director Berrak Dyer (Royal Opera House, Opera Holland Park, The Opera Story) and chorus leader Mariana Rosas (Colla Voce Chamber Choir and Birmingham City Council Choir). The cast includes Nina Bennett, Kelly Glyptis, Grace Nyandoro and Claire Wild with stage design by Nancy Surman and lighting design by David Muir.

This production was made possible thanks to funding from Coventry City of Culture Trust in partnership with Heart of England Community Foundation, and Arts Council England.

Tina Costello, CEO at the Foundation said:

“We’re honoured to be able to support this important piece of art that shares experiences of women in the place I call home. HER DAY connects people with the arts, culture and heritage in an accessible way, and I’m glad the Foundation has had a small part to play in that.”

To mark International Women’s Day, performances of HER DAY will begin at the HMV Empire Coventry on 8th March and continue until 12th March, including a relaxed performance on 9th March, captioning using the Difference Engine on 10th March and British Sign Language interpretation on 12th March. Details of performance times, how to book tickets and accessibility can be found at: https://herdayopera.eventbrite.co.uk

Image credit: Photo of female head from behind by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash, Dave Walsh Graphic Design

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