What will the money be used for?

Our primary focus is to commission new works by exciting composers, so a percentage of this fund will be spent on commissioning fees to composers. Aside from that, we will use the funds to support productions of new works in other ways - for example paying singers and instrumentalists, hire fees, and meeting other costs associated with putting on operas, including the boring stuff like administration and insurance. Shadwell is a charity and doesn’t make a profit, so you can be sure that your donation will be spent on commissioning and presenting the classics of the future. Technically speaking, any donations received through this campaign will be designated as “unrestricted income”, meaning it can be spent on anything provided it contributes to our charitable purpose.

How does it work?

We are inviting people to “claim” a year from opera history, starting with the year 1598, up to 2024. To claim 1598, it’s a donation of £1, to claim 1599, it’s £2, 1600 is £3, and so on, until 2024 is £426. If you make a donation to claim a particular year, your name will appear on the timeline as the donor for that year. You can scroll through the timeline to choose an opera to claim, or you can use the search bar if you already have an idea. We’ve also categorised things to give you some search filters if you want some inspiration.

Can more than one person claim a particular year / opera?

No, it’s one donation for each year of opera history. If something you wanted to claim has already been taken, why not consider claiming a nearby option or a work by the same composer? There are lots of options!

What do I get in return if I donate?

Shadwell is a charity and the main reason to donate is to support the work we do in commissioning the classics of the future - but if you donate you will become part of our Future Classics Commissioning Circle and will be credited in future Shadwell programmes as such. Your name will appear on the timeline, and we’ll be sure to keep in touch to let you know what we’re doing in the future.

I’m a UK taxpayer - should I click the GiftAid button?

Yes please - if you’re in the UK you will offered an option to tick a Gift Aid declaration before completing your donation. If you’re a UK taxpayer, this will mean we can claim an extra 25% of your donation from HMRC, greatly increasing the money we raise and therefore what we’re able to achieve.

Why do we ask for your address?

We ask for your address so that if you tick the GidtAid box, we can claim an extra 25% on top of your donation, at no cost to you. Without your address, we would be unable to do this. We won't use your address for any other purpose, and won't share it with anyone except HMRC for the purpose of claiming GiftAid.

Is this a work of scholarship?

Absolutely not! This website is a fun way to be informative (and at times a bit cheeky) and to ask for support for our company. Many of the operas chosen reflect my particular tastes, interests, and opinions, and whilst there have been no attempts to mislead, I can’t 100% guarantee that I haven’t replicated myths, rumours or apocryphal stories.

Why aren’t there more operas by women on the list?

I've tried to include as many operas written by women as possible, but I’m sure there will be instances I’ve missed or passed over. In general I’ve tried to make sure that even if there isn’t room for all the operas by a particular composer, they are at least represented somewhere on the timeline if possible. It’s a sad fact that for much of opera’s history, women composers have been largely excluded from the official canon. This changed to some extent over the course of the 20th century. If you're keen to support opera written by women, a good place to start would be The Devil's Den by Isabella Gellis which Shadwell is premiering this year. Women's Philharmonic Advocacy have a database of over 500 operas by women, which is well worth exploring.

Is the concept of “the canon” inherently patriarchal?

At the beginning of this project I would have said no, but having put all of this material together, I think the answer is yes, it probably is. I have quite often needed to choose between an established and revered masterwork by a man, and an under-explored and little-known work by a woman. This is the situation that confronts programmers too. By its nature, the canon represents received wisdom about which pieces deserve to be maintained, and the continued lack of examination of so many operas by women can only lead one to call that wisdom into question. At the same time, so many women composers historically seem to have been pressured to write smaller and more “domestic” music, and so found it difficult to receive backing for larger, more public-facing works of huge ambition. It is those works of ambition that we so often hold up as masterworks and pillars of the canon. So a self-reinforcing masculinity works its way into the canon.

A composer or work I view as hugely important isn't on the timeline. Why?

We set ourselves the challenge of choosing one opera for each year of its history. In no way does this mean it was the only opera in that year, or even necessarily the best one. Some really tricky choices had to be made, and wonderful and important pieces by composers had to be left out, and some marvellous composers had to be left out entirely.

I've donated but my name hasn't appeared. Why?

There is an opportunity in the PayPal pop-up to enter a name as you'd like to see it on the timeline, but it's unfortunately easy to miss. If you've donated and your name hasn't appeared, please email jack@shadwellopera.co.uk and we will make sure your name goes up. Alternatively if you're prepared to wait, we will be in touch with everyone who donates to say thank you and to check that you're happy with the way your name appears.

Can I remain anonymous?

Yes! There is a field on the PayPal pop-up where you can enter a name as you'd like it to appear on the timeline. If you'd like to remain anonymous, simply leave this blank.