Thursday, 19 July 2018

Opera company goes anywhere, loves Henley

OPERA lovers may have spotted members of the Opera Anywhere company in Henley just before Christmas when they staked a

OPERA lovers may have spotted members of the Opera Anywhere company in Henley just before Christmas when they staked a busking spot in Market Place in the freezing cold to raise £500 for Sue Ryder, writes Lesley Potter.

The group has an affinity with Henley — they also played on punts at the Henley Festival in 2010, ferrying festival-goers up and down the Thames while serenading them with popular arias, gondolier-style.

They are back in town on Friday, February 1 to sing Gilbert and Sullivan’s much-loved opera The Mikado in a one-night special.

Mike Woodward, founder and singer with the professional touring company, said Henley was particularly close to the group’s hearts.

“We really enjoyed working as part of the Roving Eccentrica at the festival, and we’d love to be invited back,” he said.

“I must admit I was a bit sceptical — people tend to dress up for the festival and I was worried about people falling into the river, but we didn’t have any mishaps and it went down a storm.

“We had two punts running, and each punt had a punter-cum-singer, and took four guests, who were then serenaded gondolier-style with songs like O Sole Mio and the Barcarolle from Tales Of Hoffman.”

Mike formerly worked in IT but decided to duck out of the high-tech environment and launch his own opera company with his wife 12 years ago, in 2000, when he had “a bit of a mid-life crisis.”

He said. “I’d had enough of dealing with the corporate type of work and fell in love with performing and with opera.”

The company draws its young professional cast from opera conservatoires and training schools up and down the country, but mainly from London, and has launched many a professional career.

Baritone Duncan Rock, for example, one of their protégés, is now making a name for himself performing with the English National Opera and Glyndebourne.

The Mikado is the company’s new production for 2012 and has a “Jubilee” feel, with a red-white-and-blue colour theme.

The production includes live music — though limited space in the orchestra pit at the Kenton means they have had to pare down their usual live band to piano, flute and timpany. They have already played to receptive audiences in Birmingham and St Albans, and will be going on to Bristol.

“We played at the Kenton a few years back, probably in 2004,” says Mike. “It’s a lovely intimate venue and I think it will suit our style very well.”

Tickets for the show can be bought from the box office. Contact (01491) 575698 or go to www.kentontheatre.co.uk

For cast details and further information go to www.operaanywhere.com

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