Free Opera in the Park in Portsmouth!

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The audience in Victoria Park back in 2010, just before the show started.

 

We’re delighted that Opera in the Park is back in Victoria Park Portsmouth this July – for one night only!

We’ll be performing our iconic opera highlights show “Golden Moments from Opera” on Wednesday 26 July in the leafy setting of Victoria Park, Portsmouth, in exactly the same spot as our last performance there, back in 2010!

Our live performance is the culmination of a month of opera in Portsmouth, which includes live relays from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden on the Big Screen in Guildhall Square. And by a spooky coincidence, our cast will include baritone Jochem, who has just finished performing at …the Royal Opera House Covent Garden!

Why not come and join us for a great evening of opera. Bring the kids if you want – it’s the last day of term for them.

Best of all, it’s free. Yes, you did read that right; free, gratis, no charge, no tickets required. Just turn up with a rug or a chair (we suggest the latter), maybe a picnic, and enjoy the show.

If you’d like to join in the fun, here’s the details:

Golden Moments from Opera
Wednesday 26 July 2017, at 7.30pm
Victoria Park, Anglesea Road, Portsmouth, PO1 3LD
Free Entry – please bring a rug or a chair
Further Information: www.visitportsmouth.co.uk

Opera in the Park is presented by Portsmouth City Council

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Hatstand Opera come to St Neots for the first time in November

GM-image-newWith our 20 years of experience touring across the UK, we’ve sung in a lot of English towns, but never in St Neots! So, we’re thrilled to be heading to this historic town on Saturday 19 November to perform our iconic “Golden Moments from Opera” – 2016 version!

One of the great thrills of being a touring opera company is that we get to sing in lovely surroundings, and bring new visitors to some of our most precious historic buildings and churches.

So, we’ll be performing in the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, aka St Neots Parish Church, a beautiful Grade 1 Listed 15th century church. Our performance is presented by The Friends of St Neots Parish Church, and will help raise funds to keep this fine old building in a good state of repair.

As the Friends say on their website:

“Although the church does not have major structural problems, it needs a steady programme of repairs. It is over 500 years old! The need to use conservation techniques means that even small repairs are very expensive. It has an active and friendly congregation but their resources are not enough to do everything. So the building needs help.”

 

“Golden Moments from Opera” is our flag ship show of scenes and arias from the world’s favourite operas, presented in our informal and entertaining style.

The cast for this fun evening of opera features our Australia singer Toni Nunn, Birmingham-based tenor Richard Owen and HSO’s director Kirsty Young (mezzosoprano, not newsreader).

At the piano will be Gill Ford, a superb pianist we’ve known for many years but with such a busy schedule, we have to book her many months in advance!

If you’d like to join us on Saturday 19 November, here’s the details you’ll need to book your tickets:

Saturday 19 November 2016 at 7.30pm

Golden Moments from Opera

St Mary’s Church, Church Street, St Neots, Cambs, PE19 2BU

Tickets: £12.50, £10 concs

Available from:
bruceandalice26@btinternet.com – 01480 473820
raggatt2@onetel.net – 01480 213884
jarogus@msn.com – 01480 476314

Refreshments served at the interval.
All proceeds to The Friends of St Neots Parish Church – http://friendsofsnpc.org.uk

Remember, you can also find us on social media:
http://www.facebook.com/HatstandOpera 
http://www.twitter.com/hatstandopera 

Join Hatstand Opera in Shropshire next weekend

What are you doing next Saturday night?

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Hatstand Opera will be performing at the Much Wenlock Festival in Shropshire on Saturday 11 June at 8pm – and we’d love you to join us!

We’ll be singing a special version of our ever-popular show “Golden Moment from Opera” in the festival marquee, featuring the talents of your favourite performers soprano Toni, mezzo Kirsty, baritone Jochem and Presteigne-based pianist Jeremy.

Expect the usual mix of great music, witty introductions, quick-change costumes and, especially for the festival, some super-sparkly new dresses.

And if you’re not sure where Much Wenlock is, (and we didn’t know either until we were booked!), this pretty village lies just off the A458 between Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury. So it’s an easy drive from Kidderminster, Stourbridge and Wolverhampton, and a really easy drive from Telford and the M54.

Why not make a night of it and bring some friends along to enjoy the show too. 

Book your tickets online right now http://www.wegottickets.com/event/346693.

We look forward to seeing you there!

HSO at the Much Wenlock Festival this June

GM-image-newWe’re thrilled to be making our first visit to the Much Wenlock Festival this year, to join an amazing line-up of acts performing at this popular Shropshire arts festival.

We’ll be performing a bespoke version of our all-time top show “Golden Moments from Opera” on Saturday 11 June, at 8pm. Expect lots of well-known items and some fun new discoveries too, all performed in the usual fun, informal Hatstand style

Join us for a fun evening of music and laughter in the Church Green marquee. Bring your friends, family, grannies – they’ll all have a good time!

Click here to buy your tickets online

or check out the Much Wenlock Festival website 

Raising funds with outdoor performances

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The Hatstand Opera outdoor fundraising performance season started in earnest last Saturday with a wonderful performance in aid of Cherry Trees respite care. One of their supporters has opened their home as a venue, and after some considerable advance planning, all was set for a great evening in the garden, with us performing on the raised terrace. The whole set-up looked lovely.

Not that the weather looked lovely, with scudding grey rain clouds, but thanks to a carefully places mini marquee, we stayed warm and dry through a very wet afternoon’s rehearsal.

By the time the gates opened at 5.30pm, the rain has stopped, the grass was actually drying, and everyone set up their picnic tables in sunshine that grew stronger by the minute.

Indeed, by the time we started Act 1 at 7pm, the sun was shining brightly, a sure sign that our sungoddess soprano Toni was working her magic.

Back in the days when Toni toured with a variety of UK companies, she was often double-cast in major roles such as Violetta in la Traviata. Whenever she sang outside, the sun would shine and the weather would be fine. On one memorable occasion, a major thunderstorm literally held off until her Violetta gasped her last, ending the opera with a spectacular lightning display. The other Violetta fared less well on her nights, often getting very wet!

After our show for Cherry Trees, we drove home in fine weather to discover that almost everywhere else we passed through had experienced heavy rain all night. We were truly blessed, and to top it all, the charity raised almost £6000 from the evening, an amazing sum.

So, if you’re planning an outdoor opera fundraising performance and you want good weather, you know who needs to be there…!

photo courtesy of Jon from Cherry Trees www.cherry-trees.co.uk

New design, old blog codes…

HSO_KJY_WineWebWe decided to give the Hatstand Opera a facelift this month, for a fresh, clean look that is hopefully easier to read and to navigate.

However, as with so many things website, when you start changing one thing, all sorts of other things go haywire!

So, apologies for the way the system has decided to ignore the old shortcodes for blog pics, and just put the code instead of the image. We will be working our way through all these and restoring the images once the white wine has chilled in the fridge and Kirsty has come down from the ceiling…

Hatstand Opera in Manaus Brazil – yes, really!

Hatstand Opera in Manaus Brazil – yes, really!
Hatstand Opera soprano Toni Nunn on stage at the Teatro Amazonas, Manaus.
Hatstand Opera soprano Toni Nunn on stage at the Teatro Amazonas, Manaus. In shorts.

When the England team kick off on Saturday in the sparkling new Arena da Amazonia, the coverage is bound to show the other great building in this riverside city in the rainforest, the Teatro Amazonas, commonly known as the Manaus Opera House.

And we’ve sung there.

OK, Toni and Kirsty sung there, for about five minutes one morning in January 2000, after sweet-talking a tour guide to let us stand on the stage rather than just look from the seats. It was truly amazing, a guilded glory that had only relatively recently been rescued from neglect, and so appropriate for the snippet of ‘La Traviata” Toni sang (the guide was suitably impressed).

Originally built with money from the rubber boom (the cobbles outside were coated with rubber to stop the sound of carriage wheels disrupting the performance), the Teatro Amazonas is almost entirely an imported building. The marble and the Murano glass chandeliers came from Italy, the ceiling tiles from Alsace and the steel pillars were from Glasgow, albeit painted to match the marble. The curtain may have shown the local  “Meeting of the Waters”, where the sandy-coloured waters of the Amazon River (Rio Solimões) run alongside the dark waters of the Rio Negro, but it was painted in Paris.

When we visited as part of a cruise down the Amazon (which Toni won in a Classic FM phone-in competition), Brazil didn’t seem very proud of Manaus. The coach had its curtains drawn as we travelled from the airport, as the drive down to the docks and our waiting ship passed through some of the poorest areas. The cruise firm advised us to carry US dollars and only visit certain tourist shops, advice we ignored and having stocked up on some Brazilian currency from a bank guarded by men with submachine guns, we headed into town.

We walked along streets with hugh blocks acting as stepping stones, for when the water rushed like a torrent don the hillside. We wandered past incongruous Christmas decorations of giant plastic Santas, before reaching the opera house with its elegant tree-lined square and verandas. We were the only people on the guided tour, and our young guide was utterly charming, but it was somewhat surreal. To emerge blinking from this chandeliered European building, and then later to watch swarms of lean fit men unload the river boats with every necessity of modern life from food to fridges, is probably the same contrast football fans will see between the shining new football stadium and the raw jungle they flew over to get there.

Just as cruising the Nile isn’t really seeing Egypt, stopping off at ports along this mighty river wasn’t really seeing the Amazon as such, but it was seeing a slice of Brazilian life that was changing rapidly, adn we’re so glad we saw it. We’ve posted some of our pics of that trip at our Hatstand Opera Facebook page – enjoy!

Back in Cambs: we’re chatting about our return to Chatteris

Back in Cambs: we’re chatting about our return to Chatteris

There are certain clients that are very much part of Hatstand’s heritage, and Chatteris Music Society is one of these! So we’re thrilled to be making a return visit on Saturday 21st June to the Church of St Peter and St Paul, with our iconic show “Golden Moments from Opera”

“Golden Moments from Opera”, our selection of the best bits of opera you never thought you knew, is actually never the same show twice! Each show is tailor-made to the venue and the audience, and thanks to our database of performances, we know precisely what we sang at any of our performances over the last 20 years. (Scary but true!) So, we can avoid too many repeats and incorporate favourite items too.

Since we also vary the line-up for the gentlemen singer and the pianist, each cast has their own music we can choose from. For Chatteris, we’re delighted to have baritone Jochem van Ast, fresh from singing in the chorus at both the ROH and ENO, and pianist Susan Graham Smith, one of the most versatile players we know and who makes our digital piano sound superb!

S, what will we sing on the night? To be honest, we don’t know 100% yet ourselves!  We do a first draft programme using the database, and then add in new numbers, items that we think the knowledgeable and fun-loving audience at Chatteris will enjoy, and shake well! This process keeps the show fresh and enjoyable for everyone, especially the audience.  We can’t tell you the exact formula we use (it’s a closely guarded secret like the KFC spice mix!), but the result has been delighting audiences across the UK and beyond since our first performance back in March 1993.

Why not join us in Chatteris for more hilarious scenes and heart-rending arias from the world’s favourite operas – we look forward to seeing you there!

Mad Margaret rides again

 

A few years back, I wrote a column for the esteemed Classical Music magazine about our exploits on tour, under the guide of Mad Madge the Mezzo. For almost two years, readers enjoyed the high, lows and downright odd things that befell Hatstand out on the road, with names and locations changed to protect the innocent and the eccentric alike!

Having rediscovered these articles recently in a file, we’ve decided to share some of the best via our blog, just for fun. And if you like them, we might even create an e-book so you can chortle over your Kindle on an exotic beach!

So, here’s the very first article, for your fun and our nostalgia!

 

Opera on the Road: touring tales of Hatstand Opera

“The glamour of opera,” I mutter under my breath, swinging the piano-laden estate car round a blind bend in the pouring rain, the wipers trying their best to smudge the windscreen with mud. “I must be mad.”

“You really enjoy this, don’t you,” booms the village hall committee Artistes Liaison Officer in hearty, county tones. “Lovely month, November. I’ll switch the heat on when I get back, OK?”

As we unpack the car, sliding the piano trolley down a ravine-ridden path, through swing doors that are designed to entrap strangers, and manhandle it onto a stage so high it gives you vertigo, I do wonder. Yet, a mere hour or two later, flourescent strip lights shining, the first wave of warm, friendly audience laughter fills the chilly air. Ah, performing, you can’t beat it.

Well, you can, actually. You can be richer, more secure, warmer and with a pension. You can have a definite income next month, and a tax bill that dribbles away each month, not lurking to horrify you at year end.

Why on earth do we do it? Simple, because we get to meet the GBP (Great British Public) on their home turf, from gruff colonels with faithful Labradors to indignant Wagnerians, meringue-baking Scotsmen to Scunthorpe football fans. Not forgetting the venues, of course; from top hotels to toilet blocks, flouncy marquees to medieval castles, all filled with GBP just dying to talk to us just as we’re dying to pack up and go home.

If you only ever work in an office, you’ll never get to meet these vast swaths of music lovers who have Time During The Day. They are the people at the heart of village life, who tend the church, mind the shop, protest about planning proposals and deplore the state of the roads. And they make the cast of Little Britain look the pinnacle of sanity…

Like the Mumerset lady who informed us that the venue electricity meter took 50p pieces – “the old type, mind”, and enquired “How many 50ps does your average show take?” The only source of old 50ps was not coming that night (“She don’t like opera much”) so a wet and cold dash to the appropriate cottage finally produced the magic multi-sided currency. Our show takes five, by the way, because we didn’t switch on the £10,000 rig of lighting bought with Lottery cash, as the Drama Society wouldn’t let us use them…

Or the venue committee who were having “a few renovations done”. Now we’re not generally fussy but we do like our venues to have four walls, not three and a tarpaulin billowing in a Force 5 gale. The demolished stage replaced by piles of concrete bags we could cope with, the dressing room stripped to its bare joists with hanging live wires we drew the line at, and retreated to the kitchen. We sang in a dust-laden draft, danced around the props holding the roof up, and dodged the fire extinguishers thoughtfully placed at ankle height.

The glamour of opera? Don’t get me started…

Last Night of the Proms Rule Britannia words – opera anorak alert!

“Rule Britannia”. It’s one of those songs you think you really know. And then you suddenly realise, perhaps you don’t know it quite as well as you thought, when someone brings up the “shall or will” question.

For the opera anoraks, “Rule, Britannia!” is from Thomas Arne’s masque “Alfred”, with a libretto by James Thompson. For the rest of us, it’s that crowd-pleaser sung at the last Night of the Proms, this year by marvellous mezzo Joyce DiDonato (hoorah!)

Ever since one conductor took the Promenaders to task and reminded them that it’s “Britannia, rule the waves” (instruction) not “Britannia rules the waves” (statement), we’ve been very careful to sing the right words.

But have we?

OK, here’s the question; is it

“Britons never shall be slaves”
or
“Britons never will be slaves”?

And while we’re nit-picking, is it

“And guardian angels sung this strain”
or
“And guardian angels sang this strain”?

Blithely ignorant of this thorny issues, I sent copies of the music to our singers for a performance. Hardly had the dust settled on my Send button than baritone Bryan was on the phone.

“It’s will and sang”, said he. “The music says shall and sung”, said I. “The music’s wrong”, said he.

I know that Bryan is usually right on these questions, but I had a niggling doubt. And that opened a can of worms, big time.

My John Wallace recording uses “sung” and “will”. The YouTube footage of the Proms 2011 uses “sang” and “shall”, while Proms 2009 uses “sung” and “shall”. Bryn Terfel at the 2008 Proms sings “sang” and “will” – hoorah. (OK, the audience are trying to sing “shall”, but the choir is definitely singing “will!”)

In desperation, I turned to Wikipedia, (not the most reliable of sources, as we know). To my surprise, I found what could be a definitive source. According to the entry, The Works of James Thomson by James Thomson, published in 1763, includes the entire original text of Alfred. In Vol II, p. 191, the libretto is printed as:

“When Britain first, at Heaven’s command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

So, we’re sticking with the 1763 version – “sang” and “will” it is!