I have, in the past, extolled the virtues of Needham Market, with its predominantly Georgian high street, a splendid non-league Tier 4 football team and a gratifying support for genuinely hard-working Liberal Democrats. I have not, and it is remiss of me to have thus failed, mentioned its opera house until now.
The Barrandov Opera, the vision of John and Carol Dearlove, is probably the smallest opera house in the country, with three brief 'seasons', one in April, another in September and the third in the run-up to Christmas. Up and coming talents perform a selection of arias and other operatic works for a small but devoted audience. Dinner is included in the (astonishingly reasonable) ticket price. After all, how much would it cost to get to, say, London, let alone the cost of tickets and dinner?
But I digress. Ros and I met up at Needham Market station, on a glorious spring evening for the short drive to our destination, with little idea as to what exactly we might expect. What transpired was a remarkably intimate night of music, song and pleasant conversation, all hosted with flair, charm and sparkle by John Dearlove himself.
Bass-baritone Darren Jeffery, mezzo-soprano Helen Sharman, soprano Dušica Bijelić and tenor Joshua Mills, accompanied by Peter Bailey on the piano, performed everything from Britten to Bizet, Verdi to Wagner to an increasingly appreciative audience, mingling with us in almost an 'opera in the round' manner. It was quite splendid.
So, if you weren't convinced as to the utter wonderfulness that is Needham Market previously, perhaps now that you know about this jewel in the cultural life that is the Barrandov Opera, you might pay us a visit...