The Isle of Wight is known for many things, but the Island is not usually associated with opera productions, least of all outdoor ones. myisleofwighter Sarah Sims finds out why, for two nights only in May, Pop-Up Opera is coming to the Garlic Farm.
For those unfamiliar with the term it means literally that – operas that pop up in unusual venues just yards from where you sit. In this case, outside in the beautiful courtyard at the Garlic Farm on 10th & 11th May, where you can watch riveted as a live opera unfolds right before your eyes. There’s something hugely exciting about being close and upfront during an operatic performance. This is opera turned on its head and a far cry from the stuffy confines of a conventional city theatre.
The company showcasing its talent is the Pop-up Opera Company, an innovative touring opera company, which takes opera to unusual venues – no kidding. They have performed opera in bars, boats, barns, and all sorts of unexpected places. Their productions are uniquely adapted to each individual venue, while the originality of these one-off settings opens up the universal appeal of opera.
The soprano with the vision is twenty-nine-year old Clementine Lovell, whose mission to bring opera to everyone is set to excite the masses. She launched Pop-up Opera in 2010 after she became increasingly frustrated by the fact that in Britain, opera is normally only available at large city theatres.
“Friends who were interested in trying opera were put off by the idea that opera is inaccessible and only for ‘buffs’ or regular opera goers. The formal atmosphere of a large theatre can be really intimidating and alienate potential opera lovers,” she points out. After two years of living in Italy, where opera is performed regularly in piazza’s of small towns and local theatres, Clementine saw no reason why the same could not happen in Britain. “In Italy there’s a real musical culture, where everybody in the family knows about different operas – it’s wonderful to see opera opened up to such a wide audience,” says Lovell.
So the idea for Pop-up Opera was born after Lovell staged a series of opera scenes in a Herefordshire barn. “This venue normally staged folk music and blues, so a large percentage of the audience were not familiar with opera,” explains Lovell. “Yet the concerts were a huge success. So the idea grew that opera could be taken to all sorts of unusual places.”
The ethos behind Pop-up Opera is simple. “ We’re really dedicated to making opera enjoyable and inviting, without losing the quality of musical performance,” explains Lovell. All the singers involved with Pop-up Opera are opera singers in the throes of developing promising careers. Lovell herself hopes that Pop-up Opera can also provide a training element and help young talented singers to build experience and to add roles to their CVs.
In Lovell’s case she actually studied archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University, before taking up a place at Guildhall School of Music and Drama six years ago, to study opera singing. She’s been singing opera full time ever since and has undertaken some big operatic performances such as Dispana in Cosi Fantuti to Serpetta in Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera.
But her big mission is she confesses, ‘to bring pleasure to those who are hesitant about opera, as well as to dedicated opera lovers.’ So there’s no need to feel shy about not being opera buff. The opera showcased at the Garlic Farm on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th May is refreshingly far from stuffy.
Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore is a classic operatic comedy, with Lovell and her five singers entertaining you from start to finish. Director Darren Royston is adapting the production for this special venue surrounding the picturesque courtyard at the Garlic Farm. “We adapt the production to suit where we perform – so no rigid sets, but rather we use simple props and are inspired by our surroundings,” explains Lovell. So you could be in for a few unexpected treats.
For the Garlic Farm the opera is one in a series of events they plan to host. Manager Tom Honeyman Brown says,” Pop up opera are making a name for themselves across the country with their innovative approach to opera. So we got together with Clem to bring them here to perform last year, which proved really popular. We’re delighted they’re returning and to be able to offer it not just to our customers but anyone interested in opera.”
Tickets cost £15 which includes a glass of Champagne and canapes on arrival at 7pm, before the performance gets underway at 7.30pm. The opera lasts a very do-able 1 hour 45 minutes including an interval when you can pre-order a mezze platter to share for £15 and drinks are available from the fully licensed bar.
For bookings and information call the Garlic Farm Café on 01983 867333. Tickets are limited, so book early.