Saturday, 15 December 2018

Kit aims to make arias accessible for all

Little in the background of Christopher Hesketh-Harvey suggests the career path he followed. Born in Africa, the son of a

Little in the background of Christopher Hesketh-Harvey suggests the career path he followed. Born in Africa, the son of a District commissioner, educated at Tonbridge and Cambridge surely he would not end up as a cabaret star and champion of making opera more accessible?

But his singing talent he won a choral scholarship to Clare College led to the Cambridge Footlights, a meeting with Richard Sisson and the birth of Kit and the Widow, a duo that for 30 years amused, charmed and entertained.

In between he wrote film scripts, worked at the BBC and studied with Stephen Sondheim.

And for a man who disarmingly says: “I’ve never been ambitious. I just like to see what turns up”, a great deal has turned up.

Not least is opera which has played an increasingly large part in his life. Not that it is a complete passion as he feels it is burdened by its image: “I hate the snobbery that surrounds opera but a lot of that elitism is going.”

In spite of his talent for singing he realised that his voice is far more suited to the witty and waspish songs he sang with Kit and the Widow than opera.

No one could have done more to try and change the image than Kit as anyone who goes along to the Kenton next Saturday (June 29) will find out when the Merry Opera performs Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

It has been translated and directed by Kit but with some changes from the original.

The composer Mozart is portrayed on the stage as he explains: “I set it in the context of Mozart’s life. I think that you need to understand what was happening to him when he wrote it to enjoy the opera more. He was dying when he composed it and that is relevant to what we are seeing on stage. I want to make it lucid for those people who have seen TheMagic Flute before and less daunting for those who are seeing it for the first time.

“After all this opera is a sort of pantomime or as near as they had when Mozart wrote it.

“It is fun, it is amusing and there to be enjoyed. We have a tremendous cast that has great enthusiasm and tremendous musicians.

“I don’t think anyone will be disappointed and if it is the first time they have been to an opera it will show them that it perhaps was not what they expected.” The opera was first performed in September 1791 and at the beginning of December Mozart died. The Merry Opera has been to the Kenton twice before with La Traviata last year and Troy Boy in 2011 and the company’s title is aimed at showing that opera is not all grand and not all serious.

The young cast of 12 rotates for each show with some members playing more than one role. The five-piece band is led on the piano by musical director Stephen Hose.

Kit lives contentedly in Norfolk with his wife Catherine Rabbett, their two children ‘have now grown up and fled’ and he keep busy with his portfolio of work.

Whether he is on the radio, on stage, translating opera or writing he seems at 56 to retain an unbounded enthusiasm for life.

In the rest of his life ‘seeing what turns up’ has led to the end of his partnership with The Widow Richard Sisson and the beginning of a new cabaret team with James McConnel.

“They have known each other for years and have worked together before.

“After 30 years there was a need for a change. I look upon my work with James as a second marriage.”

The Magic Flute is on at the Kenton Theatre at 7.30pm on Saturday, June 29. To book seats call the box office on (01491) 575698 or visit the theatre from Monday Friday 11am to 3pm or Saturday 10am to 1pm. To book online go to

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