Wednesday, 17 August 2022

‘Opera should be people-friendly’

Award-winning opera producer Ellen Kent brings her take on Puccini’s

Award-winning opera producer Ellen Kent brings her take on Puccini’s

to the Hexagon in Reading tomorrow night (Saturday). Here she shares some of the secrets of her success

WITH nearly 25 years in the business, Ellen Kent’s operas are renowned for their high production values — stunning set designs, lavish costumes and pyrotechnic lighting effects.

Her shows have also been hailed as providing an ideal introduction for newcomers to the form. So what can someone coming to their first opera expect from an Ellen Kent production?

“I have a long relationship with Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Latvia and I cherry-pick the performers and orchestra to ensure we have the very best for each opera,” she says. “Some of the crew have been with us since we did our very first productions in Moldova almost 20 years ago.

“Audiences will have an experience they will never forget as my operas really are spectacular. It is my mission to produce people-friendly operas and give audiences a truly memorable performance.

“I am a very visual person, so I’m involved in every stage from the creative process through to production — everything from the set design to costumes.

“We dress and treat each opera completely individually so I make sure everything we do has the Ellen Kent treatment. I like my operas to look like a series of incredible paintings — colourful and beautiful. And beauty brings emotion. I love lighting as it can really change a set and the mood. So audiences see a lot of chandeliers in our operas.

“The most amazing feeling for me is when we create the ‘gasp factor’ and the audience have been known to clap the set before the action starts! That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

“We take things to the absolute maximum to create the ultimate opera experience — my wish list is never small and I take things as far as my creative brain or purse will let me.

“In the past, we’ve had a fountain from Calcutta with dancing coloured jets which had also been used in Bollywood films. The audience sat with their mouths open in amazement so it had the desired effect.”

It’s now nearly a quarter of a century since Ellen started producing operas, but she says it’s something she “fell into by accident”.

“I was asked by Rochester City council in 1992 to provide a show for the Rochester festival held every summer at the castle. As I was being funded by them for touring national children’s theatre from Europe in Britain, I suggested an opera and that is where the opera started for me.”

The Times once dubbed her shows “the Las Vegas of opera”. So who were her influences?

“You just have to go for it in life, make the absolute most of it,” she says. “My parents were exactly the same. No matter what problems you face, you overcome them.

“My mother produced amateur opera in Bombay, so I began performing aged six. I started as an actress, singing and dancing — an all-rounder.

“I stayed at home in India and only learned to read and write when I was eight years old. I learnt to read mysteriously on my mother’s Angelique and the King collection [by Sergeanne Golon].

“I did not go to school, until later at the age of 12 I went to boarding school in Cromer, Norfolk.

“I am positive that together with my parents’ influences, this has played a major part in choosing a creative path to follow.”

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