Traditional Maltese folk monsters get the rock opera treatment in Belliegha

Teodor Reljic speaks to Stefania Grech and Yandrick Agius of DLS Productions (Carmen: The Rock Musical, War to End All Wars) about the company’s upcoming show, Belliegha, which fuses traditional Maltese folk monsters with the rock opera format

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
7 September 2016, 9:03am
Belliegha will deliver a story of Maltese folk monsters in a rock opera style
Belliegha will deliver a story of Maltese folk monsters in a rock opera style
What was the starting point of the project?

The starting point was to come up with a plan to amalgamate the various talents of all our in-house volunteer artists into one project. We wanted to exhibit the true magic which our graphic designers, costume designers, makeup artists, lighting designers were so wonderfully capable of doing and merge this with the unmatched talents of our script writers and musicians. We brainstormed for days and months, until we found our inspiration in the book ‘The Maltese Bestiary’ written by Stephen D. Mifsud. We started off with the mythical creature of Bellieg─ža, a well-dwelling creature that was used by adults to keep children from leaning into wells. This story set our minds to motion, and our story was built.

Stefania Grech
Stefania Grech
What led to the decision of featuring Maltese folk tales and their creatures as some of the key protagonists of the story?

Our script writer and editor are true lovers of history and literature alike. They felt that this was the right platform to research Maltese folk tales and pass on some of this interesting context onto the younger generations. In order to make the story more encouraging to a varied audience, this was then cleverly intertwined with rock and pop-rock music from recent decades. For us, this was the perfect recipe to develop a project that would bring these stories and creatures to the forefront.

What do you think this element of Maltese folklore adds to the show – how does it differ from other rock operas?

Few productions have centred around the topic of Maltese folklore, especially in the musical theatre genre. Our team always strives for original concepts and even though it proves more difficult to initially attract the attention of the public, our efforts are often rewarded in the long run. Our productions differ not only in context, but even more and more importantly so, in delivery to the audience. The dividing line between rock musical and rock concert is severely blurred in our productions – the primary element we build our show on is to give the audience a rock concert experience within a two-and-a-half-hour journey and developed story.

Yandrick Agius
Yandrick Agius
On top of this, with an 80-strong cast and band this is undoubtedly our biggest project yet. We are very excited for our audiences to see what awaits them in the Underworld.

What do you make of Malta’s performing arts scene? What would you change about it?

Performing arts are as wide and as vast as the creatures in the sea. There is simply no limit. It is absolutely wonderful to live in a country where there are multiple productions taking place every weekend. We are spoilt for choice! 

I feel that more and more youths are being exposed to theatre and arts in early age and this is helping the theatre scene to grow exponentially. 

If I could change one thing, it would be for more established organisations to appreciate the value of the arts within the community, and give their financial support. Performing Arts can never sustain enough income to match their costs and need the help of other industries to balance that out. Even though our team is made solely up of volunteers, the costs for such a big cast and heavily equipped production are severe and the income from ticket sales will never be enough to suffice. Surely this is not only our dilemma but a consistent one with artists worldwide. Were it not for the support of our very generous contributors, our project and many others will be nothing more than a scribble on a paper. 

Belliegha fuses traditional Maltese folk monsters with the rock opera format
Belliegha fuses traditional Maltese folk monsters with the rock opera format
What’s next for you?

With DLS Productions, we never know what’s next. Our recent projects included an ‘opera story gone rock’, and a walk through war story in a Victorian Fortress. We won’t know what is next until our next brainstorming session in a couple of months’ time…

Belliegha: Rockin’ The Underworld will be staged at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta on September 16 and 17 at 20:00. Tickets are at €20 and €25. Bookings: www.ticketline.com.mt, 7984 8788

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...