We will soon be inviting applications from soloists to perform in our 2020 production. Please contact us initially via our website www.duchyopera.co.uk/contact.html to register your interest.
.......will be performed at an exciting new venue close to the centre of Truro
Dates: Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st June 2020 (Two nights only)
Opera: The Elixir of Love (Donizetti)
Gala Evening: Saturday 20th with dining experience
Sunday: bring your own picnics
Tickets on sale after Christmas
Inspirational amateur companies are flourishing, yet damned as elitist by London’s culture czars.
The British pro-am opera sector, one of the many eccentric local phenomena which differentiate our society from others, still awaits its historian and its sociological analysis. I shudder to think, in these days of wokeness, how damning the latter might be; but the roots of the sector are in the civic choral tradition which began in the early 19th century (the Huddersfield Choral Society, still going strong, was founded in 1836). By the end of the century, there were choral and opera societies in towns and villages all over Britain. Each trotted out one or two productions a year of opera from Mozart to Gilbert and Sullivan sung to a piano accompaniment, with costumes stitched by members and financed at least partly by the singers who were happy to pay for the opportunity to display their talent (or at least their self-confidence) to an audience.
Over the last 50 years, the old-style amateur societies have been fading away due to lack of finance and venues, and the attractions of other pastimes. Some which survive, though retaining the word “Opera” in their title, are reduced to offering less ambitious activities. But their legacy has been vital to the British performing arts — they provided the first work experience for many of the great British professional singers and actors. From them developed the new wave of opera societies, dedicated to supporting young singers on the verge of a career, and with them tomorrow’s production and music directors, in professional stagings.
Now I find myself involved in this exciting movement. It took me almost 70 years to discover what I would be when I grew up, but it turned out last year that I was to become an opera impresario. The award-winning charity HGO (formerly Hampstead Garden Opera), of which I became chair, was founded 30 years ago. Thanks to the incredible efforts of my predecessors and their colleagues, it is now North London’s leading opera company, enabling local communities to experience two fully-staged productions with orchestra a year of operas ranging from Monteverdi to the present day. The skills of our young singers and production teams are wonderful and continually inspiring.
My knowledge of the industry had been limited to my studies of the grand opéra of 1830s Paris. But nothing much has changed since then, the key issues remaining publicity, assuaging the artistic temperament and, most important of all, money — from bums on seats and elsewhere. Companies not fortunate enough to have substantial corporate or public sector support depend on the generosity of their Friends’ circles and individual patrons, and on the box office, with the hope of an occasional grant from trusts or the Arts Council.
Ticket sales pull towards one direction — essentially Italian-libretto operas of the “long 19th century” — which can inhibit artistic exploration. Grant applications, very reasonably in my opinion, are often predicated on community and/or education involvement, which not all organisations have the competence to develop effectively (beyond lip-service). This itself comes at considerable cost which could be devoted to productions. HGO (and many others) still can’t afford to pay its singers, although at least we’ve stopped asking them for contributions. But we are still (without grants) developing our work with local schools. It’s not enough to advance young singers: we recognise the need to advance new audiences as well. The interest and involvement of the children at our staging workshops is a reward in itself.
But the consequence of public sector opera support going on one hand to cover the massive overheads and costs of the big opera institutions, and on the other to independent organisations based on the criterion of social commitment, is that the unfashionable issue of artistic standards is put at risk. We are still judged, I fear, by the prejudice that opera is “elitist” (let alone, in our case, that we were originally associated with an area as hideously haut-bourgeois as Hampstead Garden Suburb). However, it is HGO’s artistic reputation which results in the huge response we get to calls for auditions and directors for our productions, giving us a chance to spot the best. And if singers and musicians cannot be inspired to aim for the top levels of skill, if young producers and music directors can’t get the opportunity to work with them, and if audiences cannot access the thrill which great opera can provide, then we can’t truly provide for the future of the art.
Look for a dispiriting example at London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s culture strategy for London, released last December. The 180-page document, misleadingly titled Culture for All Londoners, mentions the word “pub” 25 times, “club” 16 and “bar” nine. The word “opera” appears nowhere. A statement on culture by the Deputy Mayor speaks for itself: “Culture has defined our city through the decades, from reactionary punks in the 70s to grime music today.”
And yet throughout London, aside from the two big opera houses, there is a host of high-level independent opera activity which attracts audiences, both local and tourist, enables the flourishing of new talent, and makes a major contribution to the capital’s cultural reputation and economy. Look at what is achieved by Fulham Opera, the Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre, OperaUpClose, Pegasus Opera and Opera Holland Park, to name but a few — and by HGO itself, may I modestly add.
from one of our soloists: "I had an absolutely wonderful experience with Duchy Opera. It was indeed one of the most amazing experiences I ever had on stage. And everything contributed to that, the production itself, the venue, the whole cast (principal and chorus), the directors, the atmosphere, the accommodation, the hosts. Communication was also great, all the time, and I'm amazed how you managed the logistics of all that. "
from members of the audience: "Wednesday night's performance was magnificent and thoroughly enjoyed"
"A brilliant show"
"We brought three friends to the matinee performance of Macbeth at The Minack, yesterday afternoon, and WE LOVED IT!
Duchy Opera receives no government or official funding to help offset the cost of productions, relying heavily on ticket sales, fundraising and the generous and tireless support from the Friends Of Duchy Opera. These contributions, in what is a challenging and increasingly costly field of activity, enable us to keep opera accessible to local audiences and the wider community and make it possible for emerging young artists to develop their skills and provide a platform
“Duchy Opera lived up to its reputation as one of the country’s best semi-professional opera companies by putting on one of its finest performances with The Merry Widow.” Alan Cooper - Cornish Guardian (October 2010)
“A company refusing to rest on its laurels, eager to experiment and keen to attract a new audience to the world of opera. Managing to take a bite out of the little-known Heinrich Marschner’s German opera The Vampire, instead of killing it off, Duchy Opera breathed new life into it.” Lee Trewhela - The West Briton (October 2011)
“Just to say how wonderful The Vampire was! Saturday was an EVENT and the OPERA was fantastic. The music interesting and beautifully played, the singing superb, a most enjoyable production - THANK YOU to all.” 2011
We seek to broaden our sources of funding in order to ensure a firmer financial future enabling the company to continue to provide high quality live performances of opera and to overcome unexpected reductions in income. In addition to general funding, supporters can request to sponsor specific aspects of our productions – orchestra, soloists, costumes,
etc. Companies could also have their logo placed on our publicity material and website, as well as credits in press releases and programme.
"La Traviata is given thoroughly traditional treatment under the sure direction of Penzance’s own Richard Jackson. Accustomed to consistent high-quality, with a fine orchestra and lively chorus of 22, this is no exception. Duchy Opera goes from strength to strength; we should be very proud of them all.” Eric Dare – Cornish Guardian 2017
“A huge thank you to Duchy Opera for making me so welcome over the past four years and for giving me such amazing and valuable opportunities as a young singer which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I will miss it very much when I move to London in September. The Minack week was a fantastic end to my time with you and thanks to everyone who made it so brilliant!” Rebekah Scamp – 19-year-old local young soloist played Flora – La Traviata 2017
If you would like to be a vital part of enabling this work, please find out more about our bespoke sponsorship packages by contacting Andrew Lancaster on 01872 275057 or firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a message on this page: https://www.duchyopera.co.uk/contact.html
will be performed at the Minack open air Theatre, week beginning July 8th. Seven performances, including matinees on Tuesday and Thursday.
Tickets are on sale from the Minack box office:
Photos by Linda Petzing
VERDI TOOK 30-plus curtain calls at the 1847 Florence premiere of Macbeth.
It's easy to see why.
Events cascade with lightning speed.
Macbeth and his lady understand each other instinctively.
They evince few qualms.
Carnage flows as night follows day: "What's done is done."
Later, as the pace eases, the psychology intensifies, climaxing in the magnificent sleepwalking scene and Macbeth's soured realisation that what awaits him is revilement and oblivion.
It is the exiles, lamenting their "wretched country" who will restore the light.
will be performed by Duchy Opera at the Minack open air Theatre, week beginning July 8th.
Seven performances, including matinees on Tuesday and Thursday.
Tickets are now on sale from the Minack box office: