It incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, costume, sometimes includes dance, and is usually accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble.
Opera began as a genre in Italy at the end of the 16th century and soon spread throughout Europe. This very traditional genre continues to enjoy a huge following globally. In the UK and elsewhere, many efforts are being made currently to ensure that this continues and the genre survives to following generations.
Among the tactics to engage younger audiences is the projection of English translations of the usually Italian, French or German words of most of the famous operas, so that the plot becomes more accessible and comprehensible to those unfamiliar with the work.
Glyndebourne in Sussex, England, is a very famous Opera House, with a year round outreach programme which promotes the genre. Founded in 1934 by John Christie and his opera singer wife Audrey Mildmay, Glyndebourne has a famous festival in the warmer months of May to August each year, during which six productions are presented, followed by a tour of three productions around the UK in the autumn months.
Altogether, Glyndebourne presents 120 performances a year to around 150 000 people, while its broadcasts, cinema screenings, DVDs and internet streaming shares performances with the world, along with its additional tours abroad. During the Glyndebourne Festival, an extended interval allows time for a full evening meal, either in its own restaurants or at lavish picnics in the grounds, brought along by festival goers, usually in full formal evening attire.
A TASTE OF ‘GLYNDEBOURNE’ FESTIVAL IN ZIM
In 2008, audiences locally enjoyed “Glyndebourne in Harare” at the British Ambassador’s Residence, with an open air performance of opera excerpts, and the opportunity to enjoy their picnics and wine under the stars, much as Hifa audiences do at the Cabs Opera Gala each year.
Generally, in Zimbabwe, we are starved of opera, given the considerable resources required to stage such works and the shortage of classical musicians and opera singers, though more and more young people here are studying classical instruments and music these days. So in due course, this will undoubtedly change.
FOCUS ON TRISTAN STOCKS
Tristan Stocks studied at the Trinity College of Music and Guildhall School of Music and trained first as a violinist before he began to focus in earnest on developing his natural singing talent. He has won several awards for singing and was recently accepted by Dennis O’Neill’s prestigious opera studio, the Cardiff International Academy of Voice.
In 2009 Tristan took part in the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus and Glyndebourne on Tour Chorus. He has continued to perform with the Glyndebourne Company ever since, both in the chorus and as a soloist, and also appears frequently in recitals in notable venues all over London. He also works with several ensembles, and performs nationally and internationally, so far in France, Holland, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, the Canary Islands, and Zimbabwe, and will be exciting to see him return.
Marden Singers present A Night at the Opera
The Marden Singers staged Purcell’s opera in English, Dido and Aeneas in 2008, at the Bulawayo Music Festival and Hifa and this was very well-received. This choir now offers another Glyndebourne-styled event on September 17, A Night at the Opera, featuring young English baritone Tristan Stocks, who also sang at the 2008 event, and a host of our own best soloists, including Roz Ribeiro, Mandipa Ndlovu, Shirley Warrington, Nigel Hopkins, Peter Hadingham and Takunda Kukunda.
The varied programme presents an excellent selection of easily recognisable excerpts from some of the very best known operas. Even those for whom opera is unfamiliar are sure to recognise most or even all the arias and choruses almost instantly.
An accomplished group of other Marden Singers complete the picture, forming the chorus which accompanies the soloists in pieces from famous operas such as La Traviatta, Carmen, Nabucco and Aida. Directed musically by Margot Dennis and artistically by Anne Fischer, the show is skilfully accompanied by Renée Mostert, Carolyn Peto and the excellent Peterhouse School Orchestra.
A Night at the Opera will offer all the drama, comedy, tragedy and pathos of this genre, to be enjoyed with a picnic on the lawn, and the romance and magical ambience of a spring time show under a starry sky, combining to create a lovely and unusual outing.
The proceeds from the event go to KidzCan, the charity which helps children in need with cancer, and The Harare Mayor’s Cheer Fund. If you’ve not had the opportunity to experience opera, this one is for you. Pack some fine food and wine, put on your evening finery, set up your picnic in the Hoyle Field venue in Chisipite, and enjoy a cross section of delightful operatic performances which offer a genuine taste of what opera entails. Food and drink will also be available for sale.
There are some amazing prizes to be won on raffle, including 2 return air tickets to Zanzibar, 2 nights for 2 at Bumi Hills, 2 nights for 2 at Camp Amalinda and a charter flight for 2 people to Victoria Falls or Kariba. Tickets are available at Hello Harare, The Spotlight, The Cancer Centre, and Ultimate Fashions in Sam Levy’s Village.
BY ROSIE MITCHELL