One of my first jobs in the business was for Scottish Opera, being part of a six person team called Opera for Youth. Our motley crew travelled the length and breadth of Scotland and the North East of England, performing small-scale opera productions to primary school children. We had a piano, some percussion instruments, and a few props. In advance of our visit, the pupils learnt parts of the chorus they were to become during our performance. It was always so exhilarating to hear thousands of enthusiastic young voices sing the scaled down versions of classical opera and not once can I remember them being put off by what they thought opera was. To them it was always fresh, new, and without stigma. Sadly this sort of arts education only reaches a minority and in this week's blog, our sales and marketing team member, Emily, chats about her recent opera epiphany and how she's actually been an aficionado all along.
My opera knowledge is limited. Really limited. I’ve never seen an opera live and have never really shown interest in them. They’re all just posh people singing in different languages, right?
On the other hand, my knowledge of musical theatre is huge. I’m a self-confessed musical geek and spend a lot of my free time (and my pay cheque) at the theatre seeing everything I can. I love it because musical theatre is all jazz hands and legwarmers. Right?
When I joined the Digital Theatre Plus team, I could barely name any opera composers. So imagine my surprise when I found out that one of my favourite musicals, Jonathan Larson’s Rent, is actually loosely based on a Puccini opera. And even better, this is one of the operas as part of our Royal Opera House Collection. I sat down, watched it and noticed similarities instantly. Rent tells the story of a group of bohemian artists living in New York with the main love story following Mimi, an exotic dancer living with HIV and Roger, a penniless musician also living with HIV. Puccini’s La bohème, follows Rodolfo, a penniless poet, and Mimi, a seamstress who is gravely ill. Rent even takes direct quotes from La bohème, the last song in the first act being La Vie Bohème. It was a brand new situation for me to be in; enjoying an opera that’s sung in Italian. Maybe this whole opera thing isn’t so bad.
Since this first experience, I’ve watched several others available on Digital Theatre Plus. Glyndebourne’s The Fairy Queen, based on A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare with music? What an idea!), Glyndebourne’s Le nozze di Figaro, set in the Swinging Sixties (who knew that was even possible for opera) and the Gran Teatre del Liceu’s production of George Bizet’s controversial opera Carmen (who knew opera could be so scandalous?) to name a few.
Now, I’m not saying I’m now an opera expert; I still struggle with the operatic terms. But I have broadened my horizons, looked past my musical theatre blinkers and opened my eyes to a brand new world of theatrical brilliance. You should too.