Hull Urban Opera Innovates with Music and Mindfulness

Socrates, Hull Urban Opera.

A unique experience is set to tour East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in the form of Hull Urban Opera’s latest creation, Music and Mindfulness. The production, which is built around Erik Satie’s one-woman opera Socrates, will be performed eight times across five venues in Hull, Beverley and Market Rasen. 

The idea for the production came from director Russell Plows’ battle with anxiety: 

“A few years ago I was experiencing difficulties that led to my being introduced to mindfulness by way of a ten-minute body scan seated in my chair. After a couple of minutes focusing on breathing, we shifted focus through various parts of my body as if I was following a torch in the dark. I’ll never forget emerging from that experience knowing that something significant had happened – combine that with the transformative quality of opera and you have something very powerful”. 

Satie uses Plato as his source material for Socrates and, unusually, he requires that a soprano represents all four male characters in order to retain objectivity. In our production, laid over the story of Socrates’ life and death is a parallel story of an unnamed woman moving through three stages of grief: 

I: Shock – Alcibiades’ irreverent drunken praise of Socrates becomes a eulogy from a woman who has recently experienced bereavement.

II: Denial – Phaedrus and Socrates’ elegiac walk by the river Illisos becomes a dinner party for two at which only the woman is present, playing both parts, unable to let the past go.

III: Acceptance – Phaedo’s description of Socrates’ final hours and death by poison is narrated as the woman packs up the last of the deceased beloved’s suits and possessions from their wardrobe. 

To guide the audience through these parallel stories, HUO has invited mindfulness expert Jim Rogers to become a part of the cast, acting as a kind of Greek chorus. 

The unnamed woman is sung by HUO favourite Poppy Shotts, a local young soprano who trained at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. 

Socrates isn’t exactly an opera but it’s an excellent gateway to high-quality singing,” adds Russell. “Satie’s music is beautiful, elegant, and familiar to people who have heard his famous Gymnopédies, which are often used in advertising.” 

With constantly shifting sights, sounds and even smells, Socrates is a feast for the senses and particularly accessible due to it being just one hour in length. It will be performed at Hull Minster, Beverley Memorial Hall and Cabourne Parva, with tickets available from Hull Box Office for just £11 including booking fee. Additional performances take place at Thornton Village Hall and St Matthew’s in Hull, which are unticketed and pay what you can. 

“We hope that audience members will experience the show differently,” says Russell. “For some the music and singing will register most strongly, for some it will be the story, and for others the power of being in the moment, which is the essence of mindfulness.” 

Show details

Music and Mindfulness: Socrates runs on the following dates: 

Saturday 22nd June, 7pm and 9pm – Cabourne Parva, Market Rasen 

Monday 24th June, 7pm – Thornton Village Hall, Walker Street, Hull 

Tuesday 25th June, 7pm – St Matthew’s, Boulevard, Hull

Wednesday 26th June, 7pm and 9pm – Hull Minster

Friday 28th June, 7pm and 9pm – Beverley Memorial Hall 

For ticketed performances, please visit www.hullboxoffice.com or call 0844 249 1000. 

Director – Russell Plows

Music Director – Ben Newton 

Designer – Liz Dees

Soprano – Poppy Shotts 

Mindfulness Leader – Jim Rogers 

Piano – Caroline Blair 

You can find out more about Hull Urban Opera at www.hullurbanopera.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @hullurbanopera 

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