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The 4th Engender Festival is part of The Royal Opera’s Engender initiative, now in its fifth year and which aims to deliver transformational change, amplify the work of women and non-binary individuals, provide a space for support for those in the sector, and drive gender equality both on stage and behind the scenes. ROH has announced an exciting programme from 30 June – 2 July at The Royal Opera House.  

The Engender Festival brings together today’s most exciting opera makers, writers, creatives and changemakers. This year, situated in and around the Linbury Theatre, The Royal Opera’s home for innovation takes its cue from the progressive thinking and ground-breaking productions found on the Linbury Theatre stage, which features two new female-led operas for the first time.  

The Engender Festival features an inspiring lineup of events, including collaborative conversations, events and performances with leading creatives, writers, and new and emerging voices from the opera world and beyond. 

Kicking off the festival on Friday, 30 June, will be an Insight with the team behind Woman at Point Zero (on stage from Wednesday, 28 June). Conductor Kanako Abe, composer Bushra El-Turk, and Shubbak’s joint CEO Alia Alzougbi will discuss the piece with writer and director Uzma Hameed as Chair.   

The final performance of the opera will follow. Inspired by the seminal novel by Egyptian writer and feminist Nawal El Saadawi, the multimedia work tells a tale of abuse and emancipation, bringing together a stellar creative team. Conducted by Kanako Abe, the music blends Western and Middle Eastern traditions and is performed on a unique mix of ancient folk instruments by musicians from all over the world. 

Also opening at the Engender Festival is History of the Present, which is a new experimental feminist opera-film about class and conflict. A collaboration between Maria Fusco and Margaret Salmon, the work premiered in Belfast in April 2023 as part of a series of events to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and features new compositions by Annea Lockwood, libretto by Maria Fusco and improvisational vocal work by Héloïse Werner. The work is touring nationally and internationally, at Art Night Dundee on 24 June and Edinburgh Art Festival on 11 August 2023.  

Made on 35mm and video in the streets of Belfast, the Ulster Museum and backstage at ROH, History of the Present observes how defensive architecture defines movement to enforce intersectional histories and identities within daily experiences in conflict and post-conflict zones on an international level. Early stages of the work were developed by Maria Fusco during the 2020 Engender Festival as part of the Opera in Progress series, small commissions supporting the initiation of new ideas.  

Maria Fusco, who grew up beside a peace line in Belfast during The Troubles, explains: ”The opera-film features archival recordings of women’s voices from my own family recordings, made when I was a child. I’mI’m interested in how you learn accent through tone and range, how the environment seeps into you, and how you try to assimilate. I was deeply honoured Annea agreed to compose new music for the work; her pioneering work in field recordings has been an inspiration for a long time. We utilised other archival materials, which Héloïse, a trained opera singer, improvises with ”emblematic” Belfast military sounds: a helicopter, a Saracen, and a riot. We made the decision in the work not to include any visual archival material but instead to focus on the sonic. When I was growing up, you would often hide when a riot was happening, not stand staring out at it. Your experience of violence is largely sonic: you’re a reluctant participant.” 

Engender Festival
Production still from History of the Present, 2023. Courtesy of the artists. 

In addition to events in the Linbury Theatre, a programme of informal fringe events will be running throughout the festival, including a brunch in the ROH Piazza with poet, playwright, essayist and political activist lisa luxx. lisa luxx is of British and Syrian heritage.

Engender Festival At a Glance 

Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House 
Friday 30 June, 6pm 
Tickets: from £10 
For more information, and to book, visit: 
Take a more detailed look into the themes and inspirations behind this brand-new multimedia opera adaption of Egyptian writer Naawal El Saadawi’s seminal novel. 

Linbury Foyer, Royal Opera House 
Friday 30 June, 7:45pm 

Tickets: from £5 
For more information, and to book, visit: 

This production is part of Shubbak Festival and Aldeburgh Festival 2023  


Piazza Restaurant, Royal Opera House 
Saturday 1 July, 10 – 12pm  
For more information, and to book, visit: 

A two-course brunch in the beautiful setting of our Piazza restaurant, and an informal conversation with lisa luxx. 

Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House 
Sunday 2 July, 1 – 2pm 

Tickets: from £5 
For more information, and to book, visit: 

Maria Fusco’s ground-breaking opera film tells the story of ordinary lives still dominated today by the looming presence of the Belfast peacelines. 

Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House  
Sunday 2 July, 2:15-3pm

Tickets: Free but ticketed visit: 

Salomé Voegelin will chair a discussion between Maria Fusco, Margaret Salmon and Annea Lockwood between screenings of the experimental operafilm, History of the Present. 

Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House  
Sunday 2 July, 4 – 5pm 

Tickets: from £5 
For more information, and to book, visit: 

Maria Fusco’s ground-breaking film tells the story of ordinary lives still dominated today by the looming presence of the Belfast peacelines. 


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