Three times a year, the Barrandov Opera holds a short series of gala evenings and Ros and I usually attend one of them. Now I’d be the first to admit that opera is not entirely my first musical choice, but the opportunity to hear emerging talent from around the world in little old Needham Market is not one that can be missed.
And so, last night, with friends, we were there for a night of culture, with a Serb soprano, Polish mezzo-soprano, Korean tenor and Polish baritone, singing a selection of arias, accompanied at the piano by Peter Bailey, the one constant over the years.
I’d also admit that the image of opera as consisting of robust, slightly immobile people singing about absurdly ludicrous plot twists is one that has stuck with me - opera can feel like it’s being done to you from a distance. But, at the Barrandov, set out dinner style, with the performers moving amongst you, gives a completely different feel to the thing. And, as was the case last night, when the performers actively engage with the audience, and give the impression that they are utterly relaxed and enjoying themselves, it brings home to you that music is as much about context as it is content.
Our guests had heard of the Barrandov Opera, but how one gets tickets is not entirely obvious - there is a website but numbers are very limited (about 150 per evening), and regulars like ourselves tend to book more than a year in advance. They were, quite reasonably, expecting a stage, so when, during the opening number, the soprano wandered down a flight of stairs into the audience, laid her hand on our friend’s shoulder and lingered for a few moments whilst she sang, it was clear that this wasn’t your normal concert experience.
The performance is broken into three parts, between each of which part of a buffet supper is served - nothing overtly complex, salads, quiche, salmon and local ham carved from the bone, plus lots of dessert and a cheese board should one be so inclined.
There’s a bar, so you can ensure that you’re suitably refreshed, with quite reasonable bar prices none of your Royal Opera House “how much!” sort of thing.
And there’s no sound system, what they sing is what you get, but as you’re never more than twenty yards away from the action, and opera singers can really project, it is opera in the raw.
So, if you happen to be free in mid-April, mid-September, or the weekend before Christmas next year, and you’re in the area, you might want to sort out your tickets now...
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