FESTIVAL OF CHICHESTER: Accessible opera!

The Mikado
The Mikado

Oxfordshire-based Opera Anywhere are delighted to make their Festival of Chichester debut this year when they bring their production of The Mikado to the church of St Peter & St Paul, Pound Road, West Wittering on Saturday, July 2 at 7.30pm.

Oxfordshire-based Opera Anywhere are delighted to make their Festival of Chichester debut this year when they bring their production of The Mikado to the church of St Peter & St Paul, Pound Road, West Wittering on Saturday, July 2 at 7.30pm.

Mike Woodward, from the company, explained: “We have been spreading our wings a bit in recent years, and we got a call from the church at West Wittering to do a production there in order to raise awareness of what they were about. They are looking to develop a programme of events, and that was last autumn.

“And then considering we actually spend a lot of time on holiday ourselves down that way, we connected with a church in Lewes. We have now been doing quite a few appearances around the south coast, and then the church at West Wittering rebooked us to do The Mikado, and we thought it would be good to tie it in with the Festival of Chichester.

“We have been going as a company since 2000, but we have only been going as a registered charity and limited company since 2011. That’s when it became full time for myself. We employ mostly young professional singers for our casts, and we accompany them with a fairly-small band or, in the case of The Mikado, we accompany them with piano and flute and timps. It is not a full-on orchestra which means that we are able to perform in the smaller venues.”

Which is, in fact, the company’s mission.

“Our aim is to deliver what we do to the communities that would not otherwise benefit from professional cultural exposure. It’s a very precarious industry and lots of companies that are committed to doing things with communities rely on grants and subsidies. But we are able to combine our public performances with quite a growing private-events business. We get employed to do events for people, things like sales conferences or wedding receptions, things like that, and that helps subsidise the stuff we do with the smaller communities.

“We take the approach to being informal and accessible in what we do. There is a high degree of fun, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But from the musical point of view, all the people involved are highly professional. But we just try to make it all as fun and as accessible as possible.

“The main problem with opera is that the big companies are so expensive if you go to the big opera houses. Opera is a very expensive art form to deliver. But to be honest, a lot of people that go to Glyndebourne or the Royal Opera House would not come to see us because they would not think that what we do is proper opera without a full orchestra.

“But really what we are about is attracting a middle-ground audience. We are generally looking to do the smaller venues with maybe a hundred or a couple of hundred people in the audience so that everyone is very close and so that it feels really intimate. People love to be really close to the action. We don’t tend to do venues with more than 300 people.

“We have got three or four productions on the go generally. We are touring, as we have been for years, The Mikado and also The Pirates of Penzance. We are developing a Magic Flute that will be touring in the later part of this year, and we are also doing a Christmas opera. We tend to develop a new piece each year and then add it to the main productions that we roll out.”

Tickets £17; seniors £15; students £15; children £10.

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