Bonnie Greer opera inspired by Question Time

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Playwright's first opera to be staged at Royal Opera House 

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Is Nick Griffin about to follow Anna Nicole Smith in the list of controversial characters to be portrayed on the stage of the Royal Opera House? Absolutely not, it would seem.

When the leader of the British National Party (BNP), appeared on BBC’s Question Time in October 2009, the programme was watched by almost 8 million people. Sitting next to Griffin was playwright and critic Bonnie Greer, who later said it was ‘probably the weirdest and most creepy experience of my life’.

So when it became known that Greer was writing the libretto for an opera based on her experiences around the time of her Question Time appearance, people started to put two and two together… and made five.

Greer has been working with composer Errollyn Wallen on Yes, which will be staged at the Royal Opera House this Autumn.

However, contrary to a recent report in The Independent the opera is not about Griffin. In fact, the ROH tells us, 'the opera is not about the Question Time programme itself and Nick Griffin does not feature'.

'Nick Griffin is never mentioned,' adds Wallen herself. 'Yes is about Bonnie's experiences in the weeks running up to appearing on Question Time. In a way, it examines life in the UK at that time. Early on in the opera, there's a call from a Question Time producer asking her to appear on the programme and so the opera also follows her deliberation about whether she should appear on it – yes, or no?'

Quoted in The Independent's report, Greer said that 'This government has decided that multicultural is evil. This is where art and culture comes in. It can go where people are too afraid to go – it can pose questions without answers. That's what this opera does.’

Yes will premiere at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studios in November. You can get a preview, though, at the Tête à Tête opera festival at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith on Saturday 20 August.

Stella Lorenz