High drama at the cosmetics counter

Startled shoppers watched as a soap opera unfolded – in front of the cosmetics counter.

World-renowned Wrexham-born opera star Anne Williams-King offered ‘Parfum de Wrexham Racecourse’ before bursting into song at the Estee Lauder counter of the Debenhams store at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre.

Anne is the mother of Paula, pregnant mistress of Wrexham pub landlord Terry Fields, who has left wife pregnant wife Sandra.

On Saturday the wicked Anne conned Terry into signing over his pub to her – she’s off to sunny Spain.

And if that was not enough for a five minute opera sequence – with music from pianist Stacey Blythe – we discovered Paula (singer Roma Loukes) has faked her pregnancy and Terry (Joe Roche) was called away because there was a horse in his pub!

It was the second breathtaking episode of a Nine Stories High, a nine-part soap opera which is being performed and filmed by Welsh National Opera on the streets of Wrexham as part of their three-year residency in the town.

“To have world-class performers using Eagles Meadow as part of their stage is just wonderful,” said Centre manager Kevin Critchley. “I’m sure it’s given shoppers something to talk about and made them realise that opera need not be stuffy. I can’t wait to see how the story turns out and what happens to poor old Terry!”

Carolyn Ashton, Debenhams cosmetics sales manager agreed: “We were approached by WNO and we felt it was a great opportunity for something different. I’m sure some of the shoppers might be surprised, but pleasantly surprised. I’m sorry I missed the first episode now.”

Bethan Jackson of Llangernyw and friend Joanne Martin of Abergele were making their first visit to Eagles Meadow, when they were approached by opera star Anne.

“I was taken in, I thought she was selling perfume and then she started singing. They’re very good, very impressive,” said Bethan.

The opera is the brainchild of WNO producer Claire Cressey. “This is the second episode of nine, which we are doing once a month across different town centre locations in Wrexham.

“It’s live soap opera. We hold creative writing workshops at different locations where we talk to local people and develop story lines.”

The horse in the pub was suggested by school children who had seen news reports about someone taking a horse into Wetherspoons pub in Wrexham, and on a train.

“Neighbouring Chester has a soap called Hollyoaks but Wrexham now has Nine Stories High – ours is a bit like the Daz advert!” said Claire.

WNO started its three year community-based educational programme, Wrexham Street Songs, in September.

During year one it explores story-telling and drama with visits to local schools, care homes such as Pendine Park, to talk to local people to pick up story lines which can be included in the opera.

Year two will explore the voice and year three music and composition.

At the end of the three years the public will have had the chance to get involved in writing workshops, community choirs, music composition, masterclasses with orchestra players, view professional performances, learn song writing, gain insights backstage, make props and more.

Putting the opera into familiar settings which the public can relate to helps build a bridge between the reality and the public perception of opera, says Claire.

When all episodes have been written, WNO will re-visit all the locations with a finale performance. The last episode should be a dramatic blockbuster which WNO hopes the public will want to come and watch to see what happens to the two-timing luckless Terry.

Each episode is filmed and then screened on the internet using Facebook, so that the public can interact with the characters (WNO’s Facebook page on facebook.com/streetsongs)

For more information on the programme or to get involved you can contact producer Claire Cressey at  claire.cressey@wno.org.uk

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