How do we bring opera into the 21st Century?
Merry Opera was founded as a registered charity by someone who got fed up with falling asleep during traditional performances. As a result we ask ourselves a series of questions every year: Why opera? Why live opera? How to balance interesting originality with tradition? How to thrill those new to opera as well as delight opera lovers?
There is an appetite to see the classic operatic stories set to the music of composers like Mozart, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini, and there is no substitute for actually being there with the performers, hearing the emotions in their voices from only a few feet away. We work in English and adapt the originals to take modern sensibilities into account, and our shows have received four and five star reviews and nominations for the Off West End Awards.
Working with stage directors of international repute, we have tried to bring something original into all of our productions. Kit Hesketh-Harvey set Verdi’s La traviata in a burlesque London nightclub, resulting in an invitation to tour to Malaysia. In 2013 he conjured up a magical new take on Mozart’s Magic Flute. John Ramster created a boisterous production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville in 2015, which followed his 2014 show Kiss me, Figaro! – a story about the backstage passions of a touring opera company that included favourites from Monteverdi through Handel, Mozart, Puccini and Brahms to Irving Berlin; a romantic comedy with a whistle-stop tour through 400 years of music!
His first production for us, in 2011, was very different: a dramatisation of Handel’s Messiah with just 12 singers and church organ. It was described by the press as “stunningly original” and will be revived for its ninth tour in late 2017 having been seen by some 7,000 people. Two of those commented: “That was the Messiah I have waited all my life to hear” and “I have never been to a concert before where the entire audience stood and cheered at the end”. Later in 2017 John will direct his dramatisation of Verdi’s Requiem – again with just 12 singers and organ. Traditionally, these sacred works are performed in churches or concert halls by large choral societies, and there is no doubt that such a format delivers some wonderful performances. But staged with a smaller group of opera singers, these works cast light on a different aspect of spirituality – not necessarily gentler nor any less difficult, but certainly more individual and more intimate.
As well as our opera tours, we continue to perform concerts, both for private parties and for public audiences. The latest of these was a concert of Opera, Operetta and Gilbert & Sullivan pieces in the afternoon of last New Year’s Eve as part of the London Musical Arts Series at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
Although there are good reasons why some operas are hardly ever performed. nevertheless some of them sparkle, if only briefly, with moments of utter delight. Buried among the lust, jealousy, comedy, murder and other manias of the usual opera plot, there are many moments when food and drink take centre stage, and Eat, Drink, Love! is a musical celebration of human appetites – for drink, for food and even for each other. Spiced with a dash of Merry Opera sauciness, this revue takes favourite operatic pieces, lesser known gems and delightful 1920s cabaret songs, to bring musical (and other) jokes to connoisseurs while helping “newbies” discover the beauty of classical music and live performance. As the director, John Ramster, says: “If music be the food of love, play on, and if music be the love of food then play on as well!”
We are grateful to our sponsors and to you, our ticket-buying audience, who make this tour possible. We hope you enjoy this performance and will come to some of our other ones.
You will find us on the web at www.merryopera.co.uk or www.facebook.com/merryopera and on Twitter: @merryopera
If you want to be sure of hearing about our future productions, just email firstname.lastname@example.org
Chairman of Trustees
Merry Opera is a Registered Charity, number 1127392
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