Monday, 24 March 2014

Kiss me, Figaro! Merry Opera Company

Pop up opera in pubs? Here's a twist. The Opera House, a Wetherspoons pub in Tunbridge Wells, was built in 1902 but became a cinema in the 1930's, then a bingo hall. Now, for one night only it reverts to being an opera house again. The Merry Opera Company is using Tunbridge Wells Opera House for Kiss me, Figaro!  "It's not quite an opera, nor yet a musical or a straight play. As one of the jazz standards in the piece comments about Love, Kiss me, Figaro! is "the oldest, yet the latest thing" - it's a new piece but it contains music from the last 400 years of opera, Lieder and early 20th century popular song" says Merry Opera's  John Ramster  "It's definitely a virtuosic evening: our talented troupe of singers have to perform and sing in several styles from a filmic naturalism, to comic opera, to high drama, and also cope with some music theatre dance breaks along the way"

Although this is marketed as fun, there's possibly more to Merry Opera than meets the eye. For one thing, they're also doing The Messiah on separate dates. And they're touring in twelve cities, with two London dates. Some of the singers are good enough to be familiar names, and there's even a video trailer. There are numerous small opera groups like this but Merry Opera shows initiative and organizational flair, which I respect. Look at the promotional video - it's rather good. They also have a very well made facebook page.
Snobs should not sniff. Opera is a very tough business to crack but performance is good, healthy fun. No way is this going to threaten Bayreuth, ROH or La Scala but it's perfectly reasonable entertainment. But it's a niche that needs good marketing "Not as many people as we would like in Tunbridge Wells appreciate opera,"says the manager at the Tunbridge Wells Opera House, which is perfectly understandable. But if Wetherspoons sells it as community entertainment it might be onto a winner. Much more exciting than "music nights" with dodgy folk duos or fake Elvises. The regulars will have fun (if there's beer) and they might attract a middle of the road local audience. Such events are the lifeblood of local communities. The Donald Gordon Grand Tier crowd might not come, but ordinary people who like a good night out might have a good time.

Here's the video again:

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