Thursday, 23 September 2021

Nights at the opera will help children's charities

Nights at the opera will help children's charities

TWO of the greatest works of Italian opera are to be performed in a barn in the heart of the Hambleden Valley next month — and it’s all in a good cause.

Now in its 12th year, Fingest Great Barn Opera will be hosting two productions by leading touring company Diva Opera, which recently performed at a charity gala at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence.

Puccini’s La Bohème is being staged on Sunday, September 10, with Rossini’s iconic retelling of Cinderella, La Cenerentola, on Saturday, September 16. Both performances start at 6pm.

As in previous years, the first act of each opera will be followed at around 7pm by an extended interval for picnics in the courtyard of Manor Farm in Fingest.

Opera organiser Sylvia Crowther said: “We generally set up the barn according to how many tickets we’ve sold. I do it as last-minute as I can so that people can all sit together.

“The opera’s in the barn and then they have picnics in the marquee and there’s always a lovely atmosphere, especially if it’s a lovely evening.”

She added: “With its soaring beams and rafters, the Great Barn has wonderful acoustics and provides a superb backdrop for Diva Opera’s performances. The barn faces on to the central courtyard at Manor Farm and a large marquee is erected for picnics in the interval, with additional space in the surrounding barns.

“Tables and chairs are provided for everyone and for individual groups of any size by request. Car parking is in an adjoining field and is very close to the Great Barn.”

Tickets for each opera are priced £75, with the proceeds going to benefit two children’s charities.

Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child dies or when a child is facing bereavement.

Action Medical Research for Children funds vital research to help sick and disabled babies, children and young people.

Diva Opera’s association with Fingest Great Barn Opera spans the full 12 years of its existence and has included a number of Christmas performances.

“It’s about the 30th time they’ve been here,” says Sylvia. “They’ve been here a lot but they always do fantastic performances and people love it. They’ve got really amazing singers. I mean, this year they’ve auditioned people and cast one young singer, Julien Van Mellaerts, who’s just won the Kathleen Ferrier Award, which is one of the top awards you can get.

“But they just attract very good young people because they have a really good reputation in the business — because they mentor young singers.

“They come out of college, they haven’t really got a lot of performance experience and to work with Diva and go all over Europe and work with older, experienced singers — they all really love it.

“They’ll probably come back again for a year or two and then go off and do their own thing more — they’re very well respected, Diva are.”

Founded in 1996, Diva Opera has given more than 1,000 performances of 40 different operas and concert programmes for festivals, theatres and charities throughout the UK and internationally, including a performance of La Cenerentola at the prestigious Teatro La Fenice opera house in Venice.

Both of this year’s productions at Fingest will be staged in traditional costume and sung in Italian, with surtitles for the benefit of the audience.

Puccini’s most famous opera, La Bohème is set in Paris in the 1880s and tells in hauntingly beautiful music the story of two struggling young artists and their loves. Marcello and Musetta have a turbulent relationship, while Rodolfo falls in love with the seamstress Mimi but their love is doomed to end tragically.

By contrast, Rossini’s comic take on Cinderella, La Cenerentola, overflows with joyous music as it retells the celebrated fairy tale. This delightful romantic comedy appeals to audiences of all ages and proves that dreams really can come true.

In terms of their respective ticket sales, the two operas are currently “more or less neck and neck”, according to Sylvia.

“I might have sold slightly more for Cinderella than for La Bohème, which I’m quite surprised about — I thought people might think Cinderella was a bit of a Christmas show, as the pantomime is.

“And actually it is beautiful music. And La Bohème is universally loved. But you just can’t predict, can you?”

With a seating capacity of 200 for each performance, tickets for both operas remain available at the time of going to press.

For more information or to book, visit, email or call Sylvia Crowther on (01491) 638474.

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