Opera in Frinton – how we keep our shows fresh!

On Saturday, we’ll be back at the marquee on the Greensward to entertain the good folks of Frinton on Sea with one of our classic shows, “Romance at the Opera“.

This is our seventh visit to Frinton, and we’ll be singing opera extracts we’ve never performed there before – guaranteed. This isn’t because we’re blessed with instant recall memories, it’s because we’ve got a database listing all our performances back to 1998. (And scanned printed records back to 1992!)

Sad but true.

Actually, this database is at the very heart of our show preparation. Every item we sing is listed, and we’re up to 915 at present. (It would be 1022, but we’ve deleted some items we only ever sang once.) Every item is linked to who in the HSO cast sings it, what costume they wear, what prop they need, how long the item is, what language(s) we sing it in, and even where the sheet music is stored.

So, we simply type in the item numbers for each show and voila, we create a record of what we sang, when, and where. And if we cahnge the items we sing on the night, we update the database on our return. This way, if we’re doing a classic show, we can avoid repeat items at venues we visit often, like Frinton.

Sadly, this does mean that in the office, we tend to describe a show like a Chinese takeaway menu: “OK, so we’ll start with a 22, make sure there’s a 3 in there, and we do 898 before the 376.”

That’s “We’ll start with the Brindisi from la Traviata, make sure we include Sull’aria from Nozze di Figaro and we’ll sing a duet from Merry Widow before the Encore” in case you were wondering.

As the saying goes, simples!

Happy & Glorious: how we create a bespoke opera show

We’re often asked to create special shows for clients at Hatstand Opera, and we very much enjoy crafting a great evening’s entertainment based around the client, the venue, the audience and a theme – or more likely, all four!

So, when the Lower Bourne Show committee invited us back for our third visit this year, we decided to create something special for this popular event, as the performance date fell between the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. It seemed fitting to create a show that combined a sense of pomp and circumstance with a sense of anticipation that Team GB might actually win a medal!

We often find our best show titles at the bottom of a bottle of Chardonnay, but this one, appropriately enough, just required a pot of rather nice Lady Grey tea – “Victorious, Happy & Glorious”

You might think the music comes next, but due to logistics and the time required to sell a show, it’s actually the brochure copy (selling text) and the flyer design.

Kirsty writes the words to fit what we think we might sing (i.e. keep it generic!) and soprano Toni does the artwork – she’s a real whizz at Photoshop!

Now that the print is underway, we choose music that fits the event-specific criteria:

• regal, sporting, or British (all 3 is a push!)
• suitable for an audience who come for a picnic and a great night out
• suitable for a marquee – so that rules out anything very low, very quiet or exceptionally wordy if it’s windy
• includes the client’s favourites – G&S esp. The Gondoliers, anything with a military connection, and “Nella Fantasia”!
• in the repertoire of our cast of soprano, mezzo, baritone

That gives us a list of at least 40 numbers to choose from, and it’s at this point that the top secret Hatstand show recipe is applied. Of course we’re not going to tell you exactly what that entails, but suffice to say it involves checking the compatibility of one item to the next, the flow of fun and emotion in each half, who has sung more than three in a row, and who doesn’t need to sing two solos in every show (usually Kirsty…)

Finally, we work out the look of the show, pull together costumes, props and set decorations, and check it all works as a cohesive whole. And if (when) it does, we can work these bespoke shows up into our main touring show for the next year if required.

If you want to see and hear the results, see our HSO performance diary for details on how to get your tickets!