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The Playground Theatre Presents 
A new chamber opera for male voices
"A band which is united by the ties of love is truly indissoluble and unbreakable”
–  Plutarch
Following the success of composer Mark Springer and David Flusfeder’s one-act opera at The Playground Theatre in 2019, Anthony Biggs directs a new 2 act, greatly expanded piece with a fabulous cast of singers conducted by David Crown and star performers including UK’s top jazz trumpeter Steve Fishwick, the acclaimed Tana string quartet from France and pianist Mark Springer. 
Music composed by Mark Springer
Libretto by David Flusfeder 
Conducted by David Crown
Directed by Anthony Biggs

Production Co-ordinator: Cornelius Gibbons

Cast: Andreas Warden-Bigom (tenor), Giuseppe Pellingra (baritone), Bruno Rivera (counter tenor), Geoff Williams (bass baritone), Andrew Woodmansey (tenor)

Musicians: Mark Springer (piano), Steve Fishwick (Trumpet), The Tana Quartet

  • Cast/Singers
  • Reviews
It takes as true the legend that Plutarch wrote about, of the Sacred Band of Thebes, the single greatest fighting force of the classical age.

The Band was comprised of 150 pairs of male lovers: the strength of the army deriving from the strength of the bond between each lover, as well as the prospect of shame if a soldier should show cowardice in front of his beloved. Plutarch doesn't mention what happened when a soldier died.
Army takes as its starting point the refusal by its protagonist, out of love and grief, to replace his fallen lover and make the army whole.
Composer - Mark Springer is a pianist and composer who first established his musical credentials while still in his teens with the innovative group Rip Rig + Panic. He was instrumental in forging their ground-breaking sound and was described by the NME at the time as having hornets in his head and a mercurial gift at his fingertips.

Having released three albums with the group, he went on to sign a solo deal with Virgin and made a further trio of albums for the company, culminating in 1991’s acclaimed solo piano release ‘Menu’. With the ‘Menu’ recording Springer used his piano techniques to make delicate nuances of impressionistic sounds, and also incorporated dynamic ‘compositions in real time’. This is his own description of his creative piano process to distinguish it from improvisation.

After his tenure with Virgin records Springer continued to create ground breaking new music.

This included recording his own material on a series of critically acclaimed releases on the contemporary label exit.co.uk with people as diverse as the drummer from the band Portishead Clive Deamer, up to his latest release MATTER with the fabulous French group the Tana String quartet.

Springer is always keen to work with other ground-breaking artists in order make his musical visions as powerful as possible.
Springer also created an earlier work in opera when he collaborated with, among others, the artist, Damien Hirst, who designed the sets for the performances of “Agongo” the first ever opera installation at the Edinburgh Festival which was performed over three weeks at the de Marco theatre to rave reviews.

Mark Springer’s most recent release is the new CD - MATTER on exit.co.uk which features the Tana String Quartet, Mark Springer and Mezzo Soprano, Danielle Segen. 
Writer - David Flusfeder is an American-born British novelist, journalist and screenwriter. Luck: A Personal Account of Fortune, Chance and Risk in Thirteen Investigations, published earlier this year by 4th Estate, is his first full-length work of non-fiction. He has written seven novels, including the award-winning Like Plastic, The Gift, and, most recently, John the Pupil, which is published by 4th Estate in the UK and HarperCollins in the USA.

He has been a TV critic for The Times, and a poker columnist for the Sunday Telegraph. He has also written for the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman, Mail on Sunday, Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung amongst others. His short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines, including Granta, Esquire, Arena, He Played for his Wife, The Seven Deadly Sins, New Writing 8, Fatherhood and the Jewish Quarterly. He teaches Creative Writing at the University of Kent.

Army of Lovers is his first opera collaboration. “I had never thought I would write an opera, until I had the idea for this one, a story which seems so well suited for the stage, for musical setting, and for the sound world of Mark Springer,”
Conductor - David Crown has established himself as one of the leading choral conductors in the UK.
His abilities as a vocal technician as well as his outstanding gifts as a conductor have placed him in a unique position in his field.
He is currently Musical Director of Cheltenham Bach Choir, Opus 48 and vOx Chamber Choir. David’s concerts and recordings have received plaudits around the UK and abroad. As a guest conductor he is increasingly in demand for choirs, orchestras and other projects.
David’s other work includes choral masterclasses and workshops. His background as a professional singer, professional viola player and sought-after singing teacher have all contributed to the depth he brings to his work.

Director - Anthony Biggs trained as an actor, working in regional theatre and the West End, before completing the MFA Theatre Directing Course at Birkbeck, University of London. After roles with Watford Palace Theatre, The Globe, and Theatre503, he became associate director of Jermyn Street Theatre in 2010, directing a string of high profile critically-acclaimed revivals including Little Eyolf with Imogen Stubbs, Charles Morgan’s The River Line with Lydia Rose Bewley, and the UK premiere of Ibsen’s St John’s Night with Olivier winning actress Sarah Crowe.

In 2013 Anthony took the reins as Artistic Director of JST. Highlights under his helm were the first revival in 75 years of John Van Druten’s World War 1 classic Flowers of The Forest starring Sophie Ward, Lillian Hellman’s The Autumn Garden and the UK Premiere of Lee Tannen’s I Loved Lucy starring Sandra Dickinson (transferring to West End and New York).

In 2017 Anthony became Co-Artistic Director of The Playground Theatre, directing the premieres of Shirleymander starring Jessica Martin and James Purdy’s ghost tale The Paradise Circus with Tim Woodward. In 2019 he directed Charlotte Macleod’s Still Avoiding Tomorrow (Binaural sound by Gareth Fry) to launch the album Doom Days by Bastille, and the Gala Centenary Event for Save The Children at the roundhouse which featured Joely Richardson and Helena Bonham Carter acting alongside inclusive children’s company Chickenshed.
Over the Lockdown period Anthony has focussed on developing new work, including Changing the Sheets, the debut play by young Irish writer Harry Butler, which transferred to the Dublin Festival and will play at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. He is currently developing a new dance-theatre piece with choreographer Maxine Braham, based on Nabokov’s Ada or Ardor, to be performed at The Playground in Spring 2023. 

The Tana Quartet is composed of founding violinist Antoine Maisonhaute, violinist Ivan Lebrun, violist Julie Michael, and cellist Jeanne Maisonhaute.

Hailed as “impeccable players” (The Guardian), the Tana Quartet approaches music of different eras and aesthetics with equal intensity, creating a new tradition that links past and future. Tana has appeared at prestigious festivals and concert series worldwide, including Philharmonie de Paris, Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Villa Medicis in Rome, Darmstadt, and Wigmore Hall. The quartet has been honored with numerous awards such as the Union of Belgian Composers’ Fuga Prize, an Octaves de la Musique for contemporary music, the Coup de Coeur of the Charles Clos Academy, and an HSBC Award at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.

Since its founding in 2010, Tana has been committed to promoting contemporary music in all its diversity and seeking out collaboration with composers. The quartet has consistently acted as a champion of new works, having premiered over 250 pieces by leading composers such as Ivan Fedele, Philippe Hurel, and Hèctor Parra; they have been crucial advocates for the saturist movement, working closely with Franck Bedrossian, Raphaël Cendo, and Yann Robin, whose works are featured on their album Shadows. The quartet has released thirteen albums, including Seven, which comprises Philip Glass’s complete works for string quartet and was recognized by Classica magazine as a “best album of 2018”; and most recently, Bleu Ébène, featuring the complete string quartets of David Achenberg.

They have recently collaborated with Philip Glass to record and release the brand new album PHILIP GLASS | TANA QUARTET String Quartet No. 9 "King Lear" & String Quartet No. 8.

Tana’s devotion to collaboration extends to research, including partnerships with IRCAM Paris, Grame Lyon, GMEM Marseille, ArtZoyd, and Centre Hen- ri Pousseur. The quartet co-designed hybrid electroacoustic instruments in collaboration with composer Juan Gonzalo Arroyo, a groundbreaking contribution, to electronic music. Their album Volts featuring new works for these instruments, was acclaimed as marking “a land- mark in the history of the quartet genre”

Dedicated to education, the Tana Quartet is regularly invited to give masterclasses at institutions such as the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, University of California Berkeley, and Shanghai Conservatory. In 2018 they co-foun- ded ARCO, an annual contemporary music academy for young composers and performers, in partnership with the Salzburg Mozarteum, GMEM, Ensemble Multilatérale and Les Métaboles.

Tana believes in extending and equalizing the reach of the arts. The quartet has designed two outreach programs to deliver engaging musical experiences to new audiences: Music Far and Wide brings the quartet into atypical venues, from supermarkets to hospitals; and One-Day Orchestra gives participants of all ages the opportunity to immerse themselves in the creative process.

The Tana Quartet is composed of :
• Antoine Maisonhaute, founding violinist • Ivan Lebrun, violinist
• Takumi Nozawa, violist
• Jeanne Maisonhaute, cellist.

The Tana Collective is supported by a long-term grant from the DRAC Hauts-de-France, and regularly receives aid from SACEM, Spedidam, and Adami

Steve Fishwick has established himself as one of the leading jazz trumpet players based out of the UK, with a widening international reputation and growing recognition.
Steve has worked with most leading European jazz musicians including Peter King, Mike Carr, Jim Mullen, Dado Moroni, George Mraz, the BBC Big Band, the WDR Big Band, as well as leading USA jazz masters including Anita O'Day, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Jimmy Heath and younger American stars including Grant Stewart, Gregory Hutchinson, Leon Parker, Grant Stewart and Bruce Barth to name but a few. He has released 10 CDs and LPs under his own name or as a co-leader, the latest being Mind-Ear-Ladder by the Alex Merritt/Steve Fishwick Quintet on the Spanish Fresh Sound New Talent label. Enjoying a busy performing career having appeared throughout Europe, New York, and as far afield as Peru and China, Steve is also a busy educator and currently holds teaching positions at The Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Birmingham Conservatoire, Leeds College of Music, and Trinity Laban.
Steve is also proud to be an official Schilke artist.

Andreas Warden-Bigom is a diverse tenor trained by some of the best singers in Denmark; Eva Johansson, Johannes Mannov and Jens Søndergaard. He has studied at the Opera Academy of the Royal Opera of Denmark, the Royal Danish Music Academy and the Music Academy of southern Denmark.
His opera performances include Pollione in Bellinis Norma, Turiddu in Mascagnis Cavalleria Rusticana, Rodolpho in La Boheme, Tamino in Der Zauberflöte and many others. Was about to debut at the Royal Theater as Covid struck and has ever since focused mainly on concert repertoire and has become somewhat of a specialst in musical settings of the Mass ordinaire.
Andreas has performed in Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Italy. He's looking forward to sing the role of Laius in Mark Springers Army of Lovers, revisiting the role of Turiddu.
As a former heavy-metal singer he now performs as a soloist, both metal and opera, in the show Opera on the Rocks.
Giuseppe Pellingra is born in Sicily and begins exploring his interest in music since an early age. After attending a 2-year course of performing arts in Palermo he decides to commit to classic singing, and with the support of teacher Elizabeth Smith, he starts to sing small roles in staged operas as Rossini’s ‘Barbiere di Siviglia’ in Malta, Donizetti’s ‘Le Convenienze ed Inconvenienze Teatrali’ and Puccinis ‘Manon Lescaut’ in Palermo. He moves to Tuscany and meet baritone Marcello Lippi that helps him to improve his technique and gives him the chance to sing main roles for the first time, as Gennaro Iovine in Nino Rota’s ‘Napoli Milionaria’ in Lucca, Livorno, Pisa, and Budapest, and as Mafia in ‘Falcone e Borsellino’ at Verdi Theatre in Pisa. During these experiences he has the possibility to work with directors of the caliber of Davide Livermore and Fabio Sparvoli.
Richard Cocciante offers him the role of Lord Capulet in his Opera Popolare ‘Giulietta e Romeo’, that premiered at the Arena di Verona before going on tour in Italy for over 80 shows, and for which Giuseppe makes his first studio recording as part of the original cast soundtrack. In London he is cast as Father Francis in ‘Tolkien’ at The Arts Theatre in the West End and once again records his performance in studio as part of the original cast recording.
His operatic repertoire includes Don Basilio (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro), Leporello (Don Giovanni), Biscroma Strappaviscere & Director of the Theatre (Le Convenienze ed Inconvenienze Teatrali), Sergeant of the Royal Archers (Manon Lescaut), Gennaro Iovine & Brigadiere Ciappa (Napoli Milionaria), Mafia (Falcone e Borsellino – Il muro dei martiri), Ebenezer Scrooge (A Christmas Carol). He has also sung as soloist in Handel’s Messiah and Schubert’s Mass n.2 in G major. The companies he has work for are TLCMD, LTL Opera, Fondazione Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana, Miskolc Opera Festival, Manoel Theatre, Choir 2000. 
Bruno Rivera (Strophe) was named the “Discovery of the Year” in 2018 by Chicago Vocal Arts. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rivera is making his London debut in the Playground Theater's production of Army of Lovers.
His most recent engagement with The Flehite Sinfoniëtta in Gianni Schicchi as Betto, Chicago Summer Opera as Cecilio in Lucio Silla and Virginia Music Theater’s production of Chicago as Mary Sunshine. Some credits include: Trial by Jury, Comte Ory, Grindr the Opera, The Consul, Letters of Love and Subterfuge (Transgressive Theatre-Opera), Night of Terror, Gianni Schicchi (New Moon Opera), Songs of the blue Heron (Chicago Fringe Opera) and Chicago (Big Noise Theater).
Bruno also made his debut as the Messiah Alto soloist with the Fox Valley Orchestra and was part of the modern-day world premiere of Ignacio Jerusalem Mass in G Major which was professionally recorded with the Chicago Arts Orchestra.
Rivera, who recently moved to the Netherlands, is excited to be a part of the European opera scene. Please visit brunoriveramalesoprano.com for more information.  
Geoff Williams trained at the Royal Academy of Music completing a Master’s Degree in Performance, with Distinction. Recent roles include Papageno and Sprecher Die Zauberflöte, Geronio Il turco in Italia, Escamillo and Dancaire Carmen, Don Alfonso Cosi fan tutti, General Achilla Giulio Cesare (Handel). He also covered the role of Marchese d’Obigny La Traviata for Longborough Festival Opera.
Geoff’s concert performances have included Herod in Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ (Scherzo Ensemble), Orff’s Carmina Burana (Colston Hall), Verdi’s Requiem (L’église de la Madeleine and Chartres Cathedral), Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle (St Margaret’s Church, Westminster), Pilatus and Arias in Bach’s St Matthew Passion (Wells Cathedral), Pilatus and Arias in St John Passion (Southwell Minster and Galway Cathedral), Barber’s Dover Beach with the Villiers Quartet (St John’s Smith Square). He also understudied Roderick Williams in the World Premiere of the ‘Da Vinci Requiem’ by Cecilia Mcdowall with the Philharmonia Orchestra (Royal Festival Hall).
He is also in demand for contemporary works such as a new oratorio by Steve Banks ‘Blue Pearl’ which was filmed in May in St Giles, Cripplegate, London with the London Mozart players. Upcoming performances include Beethoven 9th Symphony at the Wirksworth Festival, An evening of Leonard Salzedo works at Conway hall and Belshazzers Feast with the Nottingham Synphony Orchestra.
He studies with Janice Chapman and Gavin Carr.


Tenor Andrew Woodmansey is a Master's student at Trinity Laban under Neil Baker, supported by the Elliot Rosenblatt Memorial Scholarship, the Prowdes Trust, and the Williams Trust.

Andrew is a keen exponent of Contemporary music, appearing in World and UK premieres, including works by Michael Gordon, Peter Wiegold and John Sturt, in venues including The Cockpit Theatre, Wilton Music Hall and OSO arts.

Andrew has also performed widely in canon works. Roles have included Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) and Rehearsal Cover for Nemorino (L‘elisir d‘amor). Soloist engagements have included Beethoven‘s 9th Symphony, Carmina Burana and Bach‘s St John Passion (arias and Evangelist) among several others; in venues such as Christchurch Priory, St John’s, Guernsey and The National Center for Arts, Mumbai.

Engagements in 2022 have included playing the Role of Dr J in an avant premiere of Harvey Brough and Carole Hayman's opera 'The Hive' at Hoxton Hall and playing Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Surrey Opera at the Minack Theatre. As well as appearing in 'Army of Lovers', later in 2022 Andrew will be Singing Uriel in Haydn's Creation with the Goldmith's Choral Union at Cadogan Hall and will be playing Acis (Acis and Galatea) with the Burgate singers.

'I’ve been to The Playground Theatre in November, 2019 to see Mark Springer perform. I had the most glorious night at The Playground Theatre! I went to my very first Opera! Words cannot describe the emotions I felt when the Maestro (Mark Springer) played his magnificent piano along with Pianist (Ben Schoemar). I watched in awe and amazement how two people synchronised the piano. Not forgetting the lovely lady who was beside them to ensure everything went smoothly and in perfect rhythm. Out of this World experience is how I would describe tonight’s performance!'

– Cyntra Mark Muller | Audience Member 2019
"A dramatic masterstroke [David Flusfeder's libretto]. (...) the director, Anthony Biggs, who breathed extraordinary life into the staging. (...) The movements of the four men were crystal clear but in Zen tradition, (...) I felt myself back at a Noh play where the action delivers a challenge to each member of the audience. And the very challenge becomes the opera."
– Jack Buckley | See & Heard International 2019
"An Army of Lovers opera oratorio was first performed and recorded at Castello di Potentino, Italy, potentino.com in collaboration with Charlotte Horton and Alexander Greene with the Exit Label.

On sale at the upcoming performances will be the official recording of the original opera on exit.co.uk and the Army of Lovers book with printed music and libretto."



We do not accept Amex
Show running time
120 min with 15min interval 
Recommended for All Ages
29-30 SEPT & 1 OCT | 7.30pm 

(All unreserved)

£10 | £20 | £25
For more information about the venue and our COVID-19 Health and Safety policy, please see our your-visit page.

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