1513: A Ships' Opera

by Richard Wilson and Zatorski + Zatorski

1513: A Ships’ Opera is an astonishing water-borne performance for the river Thames. An armada of extraordinary historic vessels from the age of sail, steam and diesel  perform in a live, moving, operatic concerto of ships’ steam whistles, bells, horns, hooters, sirens and cannon.

For 1513, artists Wilson and Z+Z gathered 3 historic steam ships, 1 historic diesel tug, 2 trading Thames tugs, 1 battleship, a 19th century sailing ship, 1 Trinity lightship, an iconic bridge, 8 Trinity House bells and a large number of rare ships whistles, foghorns and hooters from the private collection of Rowland Humble, to form a maritime orchestra. Each ship has a cargo of lost voices, appropriate to its era and type: the steam ships have steam whistles, the diesel ships have air hooters, the sail ship has bells.

This is a unique opportunity for Londoners to hear an array of lost river voices, including some of the largest steam whistles in existence. They witness an extraordinary fleet of historic ships, modified to become marvellous instruments, in an operatic performance stretching 40 miles from the sea to the Pool of London. It is a breathtaking spectacle that educates and delights, celebrating the importance of London’s shared maritime past and present.

1513: A Ships' Opera took place on 14th September as the centrepiece of the 2013 Thames Festival.