Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Monday, 23 December 2013


When I am older I will cast aside this crusty persona and the new me will emerge, the suave super-spy who lives a life of car chases, fine wine, fast women and opera. Okay, I may pass on the killing people bit and my wife might object to the fast women, I'm up for everything else, including the opera.

Opera. Yes. That's a bit of a funny one, isn't it?

I mean, there are only about twenty operas that are regularly performed. Imagine if rock music was like that. What if there were just 20 rock albums that were regarded as classics and anything less famous than Black Sabbath's Paranoid was completely ignored?

There's also almost no hierarchy in opera. Rock fans can pay £300 to see the Rolling Stones (if they're mad), a more reasonable amount for a band that didn't sell out before the sixties ended, or watch a local band doing cover versions down the pub for nought. But for opera lovers there isn't much between your local am-dram doing Gilbert & Sullivan and flying to Milan to see Turandot. We're lucky here in Derbyshire we have Buxton Opera House entertaining touring companies, but that's fairly rare.

That's why it was absolutely fantastic on Saturday night to go to Glossopera's inaugural concert at the Partington Theatre. The Partington is one of Glossop's wonderful little secrets, a genuine small theatre with an intimate atmosphere, and to see professional opera stars perform there is an almost unique experience. It's a real pity this is so, because although my tastes in music are fairly broad, there really is nothing that sends shivers down your spine in quite the same way as opera when it's done properly.

As I haven't yet dedicated myself to a study of the finer points of opera I can't attempt a critical exploration of the performance, save to say it sounded amazing.

I saw Katherine Jenkins in Buxton before she was megafamous (she was the support act!) and whilst her version of Carmen's Habanera was beautifully sung, you could tell she was a nice girl from the Valleys and not a seductive vamp. Charlotte Stephenson though certainly seemed to play the part, but then she has played Carmen in a real opera, something Ms Jenkins has never done.

Charlotte Stephenson
The rest of the performers were top notch too. Tenor Alexander Anderson-Hall opened the show with Brindisi from La Traviata, which has been the end of lesser performers. Baritone Mark Saberton made a decent Toreador and a first rate Don Giovanni, whilst the sopranos Catriona Clark and organiser Claire Surman worked their way through a battery of classic opera numbers.

However, after Carmen, the highlight for me was the duets and ensemble pieces (if that's the word, I haven't learnt operaspeak yet); the one from The Pearl Fishers (question for a real opera buffs: name another song from the opera), the British Airways ad. one, the batty Mozart one from The Magic Flute and then when the encore was Time To Say Goodbye it was shivers down the spine time again.

And bets of all it was all performed live and right in front of you. Very intimate in the case of Habanera. It's one thing to see Carmen with the cream of immediate post-Communist Budapest society at the Hungarian State Opera as I did 20 years ago, but it's quite another to have her within arms reach and giving you a rose afterwards. (Had a spot of bother explaining that to my wife, I don't usually come home from a night out with flora).

So a wonderful and unique event. And the best bit? Well you can probably guess!.

So hopefully there'll be Glossopera II, or whatever they call it, next year. But could anything beat Habanera? Well, Casta Diva might.

Meanwhile, it's Breton folk dancing tonight.

No comments: