Hatstand back at St Neots for 2019

St Neots_Laugh_2019

Yes, we’re back at this lovely church to present “Laugh-Allowed Opera”, a rib-tickling romp through comic opera classics.

Why not join in the fun – tickets on sale now!

Tickets: £12.50

Available from:
bruceelam45@gmail.com – 01480 473820
david.smith48@ntlworld.com – 01480 475259

Refreshments served at the interval

All proceeds to the Friends of St Neots Parish Church




Free Opera in the Park in Portsmouth!

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


Chatteris Review by Rosemary Westwell

Kirsty, Toni, Jochem & Sue at Chatteris 21st June 2014
We had a wonderful night at Chatteris on Midsummer night (21st June) and so too did the audience – here’s what the reviewer said:

Hatstand Opera presented some golden moments from opera on Saturday in Chatteris for the Music Society. This was one of the many high profile events the Society has organised and it was, indeed, a series of ‘golden’ moments. Opera favourites were mixed with lesser known delights in this varied programme and the evening ended with some highly entertaining re-workings of more, familiar tunes. The whole evening was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, because not only was the singing first-rate but joy and humour regularly infused the programme, leaving us mesmerised.

Toni Nunn (soprano), Kirsty Young (mezzo), and Jochem van Ast (baritone) were in fine voice and very ably accompanied by pianist Sue Graham Smith. Songs were sung mostly in English but we were entertained with some delightful numbers in their original language. The French sounds of ‘The Flower Duet’ helped to make this one of the most memorable items. Toni and Kirsty’s voices were perfectly matched in this piece as were all voices in ‘Soave sia il vento’ from Cosi fan Tutte by Mozart.

The highlight for me was Toni’s performance of ‘Vissi d’arte’ from Puccini’s ‘Tosca’. The Italian language, the smooth phrases infused with passion and, of course, the wonderful voice was transfixing. Kirsty and Jochem were also impressive singers and their characterisation and humour were most engaging. There was not a dull moment in this array of opera gems. Meanwhile, constantly providing expert support was Sue Graham Smith on piano. No matter how intricate or rapid the accompaniment, she played with absolute security and accuracy, adapting to the songs’ mood swings perfectly.

This was a highly entertaining evening well worthy of its enthusiastic support.

Planning Your Amazing Opera Outdoor Charity Event with Hatstand Opera

Picture the scene: a perfect summer night, the lights fading to a rosy glow in the sky, and an audience held spellbound by the passion, drama and laughter of opera live on stage.

Putting on a live opera performance outside in the British summer is actually a lot easier than you might imagine. An open-air performance is also a great way to raise both awareness and money for your favourite charity, while having fun at the same time! Hatstand Opera have been entertaining and delighting audiences in a variety of venues across the UK for over fifteen years, including highly successful outdoor performances in aid of charity.

“Nobody does opera quite like Hatstand Opera.”
Classic FM magazine

An unforgettable experience

What such open air performances offer is an ‘experience’; a chance to be in a space the audience would never normally see, being entertained in great surroundings with wonderful music.

Many people fall at the first hurdle with finding that all important venue. Well, it’s not that hard you just need a little help with ideas.

Where do I start?
First of all, find your venue, ideally a setting that’s unusual and normally inaccessible to the general public. It’s far more exciting to attend a performance in a space you can’t normally get into, appealing to what we call the ‘nosy-ness factor’! Don’t you just love seeing behind closed doors, or the other side of high walls? Exactly! Consider:

    [list style=”orb” color=”orange”]
    • Stately homes grounds
    • Country house gardens
    • Private schools
    • Church grounds, such as a Bishop’s garden
    • Private fields in picturesque spots
    • Private gardens of all sizes

    Use Your Contacts
    Ask your charity fundraising committee for their contacts; you never know whom people know already. Also, always consider your own back gardens too, as these can be just as beautiful and fascinating to visit for your audience. Hatstand Opera have performed in everything from a garden with its own lake and island, to a housing estate back garden where the drinks were served from the garden shed!

    Borrow a Marquee
    Every summer, thousands of marquees lie empty on Sundays after a Saturday night celebration. Using a marquee for your outdoor summer event ensures you have an all-weather venue, a real advantage in the UK! So, be cheeky, ask around as to who is having an event with a marquee, and borrow it for the following evening. Events to ask about include:
    [list style=”orb” color=”orange”]

    • Weddings (your local vicar might be able to help with inside info…)
    • Anniversary celebrations
    • Summer balls at private schools
    • Agricultural or flower shows
    • Summer fetes
    • Art exhibitions
    • Hospitality tents for sporting events

    Of course, if you know the local marquee supplier, that’s even better…

    “Thank you all for much for a wonderful evening on Sunday – you were all fantastic and everyone had a fabulous evening. Working with you was extremely easy and fun – there is already talk of another event. My phone, emails and texts have been red hot for the past 24 hours, in praise of you. The total raised for KHoCA comes to just under £4000, a brilliant sum.”
    Chairman, charity fundraising evening, Kent, who borrowed a bright red “Maharajah’s marquee” after the school’s summer ball!

    So finding that venue may not be as difficult as you had envisaged, and neither is the rest of the organisation. You can have that great event!

    Need more info? We have a guide covering:
    [list style=”orb” color=”orange”]

    • Fixing Your Date
    • Pricing Your Event
    • Adding Value to Your Hatstand Opera Event
    • Music for a While
    • Pricing Your Event Package
    • Maximising Your Returns on a Hatstand Opera performance
    • Preparing for the weather
    • Performance logistics
    • Licensing, Insurance and Other Legalities
    • Marketing, Print and Publicity
    • Free Design Service
    • Tickets and Box Office
    • Promoting Your Event on the Internet
    • Flyers and Posters
    • Planning Your PR and Publicity

    Email us for the full guide.

    Time For Action!
    Call Hatstand Opera NOW on 01252 511 762, and let’s create the best event your charity has ever seen!

    If you’re really keen…

We’re in Surrey on 5th April – don’t miss us!

We’re back in Surrey at last! – Saturday 5th April in aid of 2 great charities!.

A BYO Bite at the Opera! Come and join us for a great evening of our favourite numbers and some new ones too!

More hilarious scenes and popular arias from the world’s favourite operas; deliciously witty, delightfully sung.

“I generally prefer opera’s greatest hits, so Hatstand’s opera cabaret is perfect.

Lovely…A great success”  The Guardian

For the full details click here or the pic!

Call Jo on 01252 718 098 to book your tickets. (£15)

That old cliché is doing the rounds again!

A quick rant by our Soprano Toni

Recently Katherine Jenkins called the press to ‘The Ritz’ to announce her new record deal.The ensuing response showed that the cliché “classical music snob” is still alive and kicking (again!).

Jenkins stated that she believed the ‘crossover’ genre has really developed int he last 5 years. Yes, I would have to agree with that, there are many types of songs and singers who now fall into that category and are extremely popular and many have done good things for classical music. But don’t think this is a new phenomenon!

The press conference though, gave Katherine the chance, again, to claim that she is making opera popular – yawn! Why do we always seem to come to this point again, and again?.

The Telegraph’s Hannah Furness decided to stir things up and follow Jenkin’s ethos with a piece title:“Katherine Jenkins: why classical music snobs are wrong”.

This piece then led to a blog by Alexandra Wilson in The Guardian: “We need to move beyond the cliches about ‘elitist’ opera” . Here, Alexandra shows a photo of “Opera Up Close” in the London pub, discusses the fact that opera was the pop music of its time, and reminds us of ‘A time when opera parodies were all the rage because everyone knew the operas enough to get the jokes’.

Somehow all this past history seems to be forgotten once again when the cliché comes to town! I honestly think all of us are a bit tired of it and really just want to have good quality entertainment and exposure to a variety of musical genres let alone other art-forms. Did you see Wayne Sleep’s Big Ballet on TV recently?  I think that there are many in the ballet world who probably have the same sort of feeling as we have in opera.

If you have the time and want to get in on the discussion look at Alexandra’s blog as well OBERTO, OXFORD BROOKES: EXPLORING RESEARCH TRENDS IN OPERA 

What opera singers can learn from snowboarders

Like much of the UK, last weekend I was glued to the Olympic snowboard slopestyle from Sochi – and not just because Great Britain has a fighting chance of a medal for a change!

What gripped me from the start was the sheer enjoyment those young daredevils had in their sport. They really didn’t seem to care who won – all they wanted was to lay down a good run, do their tricks the best they could, and if that put them in the final, well, that was just awesome!

It seemed that every snowboarder genuinely liked and admired the rest,; there was no bad feeling, no begrudging interviews, no divas (apart from the one who went home saying the course was too dangerous), just fresh-faced energy from some highly talented and deceptively dedicated riders.

When the judges’ scores came in and it wasn’t quite what they expected (which was quite a lot of the time), they’d just shrug their shoulders and smile; no iceskating-style tears, no tantrums, no “you cannot be serious” throwing down of equipment,  – and no macho air punches when the scores were good, but instead, genuine squeals of delight.

And what’s more, when they worked out what the judges were looking for – big jumps – they tailored their runs to suit, on the fly (literally). If that’s what the judges wanted, that’s what the riders would deliver – and if they crashed, hey, they had tried, and they were quite happy to bail out, smile and say “I did my best, I had fun”.

And the icing on the cake was the commentators, sometimes so overcome with sheer enthusiasm that they verbally exploded, and full of such fun ways of describing people sliding down some banisters on a wide plank that it didn’t matter if you didn’t understand the difference between “winding down the windows” and being “a bit squirrel-y”.

If only all opera singers would be like that! No muttering at competitions about how so-and-so’s students always win. No moaning after auditions about the old youth v experience issue, but instead a smile and a shrug – and move in. I sometimes think singers forget the reason why we sing – we love it! Other stuff gets in the way I know (like earning a living for starters), but fundamentally we love the sensation of singing when the audience is with you and the performance is going well. Yes, we are all only one rail from a wipeout so to speak, but we can also see the golden hue of applause at the end.

So at Hatstand, we’re going to be more snowboard this year, and aim for a totally rad performance  when we land those arias and enjoy the wind in our (non-blond) hair.

And if occasionally it all gets a bit squirrel-y, who cares, we know we’re in good company!


Mad Madge: Crocodile compliments: not quite what they seem

“Ooh, that was marvellous,”cooed the fluffy cardigan-ed lady who had been beaming enthusiastically throughout the show and had now rushed up to see me at the end, “You have a lovely voice – you ought to take lessons!”

Now I don’t want to appear ungrateful; we love meeting people after performances and positively bask in any compliments, but you have to be prepared for various slings and arrows.

Like the ardent fan at our show, entitled “A Laugh at the Opera”, who ranted about how we hadn’t included any Wagner. Despite the reassurances that, yes, we had actually performed in “Das Liebesverbot” and no, we didn’t think Hans’ song was exactly a laugh a minute, he still reckoned we’d missed our brief and complained to the management.

Or the well-projected comment from a little old lady at the back during a particularly beautifully costumed duet, remarking, “Eh, what do they think they look like in them there curtains!” Mortifying, but fabric-ly speaking, accurate.

The truth is, most people have only cd recordings to compare a live vocal performance against. One promoter of major orchestral events actually said that he loved our Flower Duet because it sounded “Just like the cd”; why did we, the conductor, and the 65 players bother being there, then? A concerned church concert-goer once came up in the interval and asked us to turn the microphones down; problem was, we weren’t using any.

The experience of not only hearing, but actually feeling human voices rattling audience and windows alike can come as quite a shock, particularly in a space where people know what they sound like. Village hall divas from last week’s panto cannot believe that we not only a) sing without a microphone up our left nostril in their 150-seater hall, but b) that we’re only on 3 out of 10 volume-wise and c) yes, the acoustics are dire but we can compensate. And yes, it is far more thrilling than a cd to have Musetta flirting outrageously with you whilst sitting on your lap or Berta polishing your pew.

In workshops for young people, they just cannot believe how much noise opera singers make. We’re now used to three and four year olds covering their ears when the soprano demonstrates high notes, even when they are not loud. (We all know that feeling…) As a mezzo, of course, I don’t have that problem; my spaniel used to put her paws over her ears when I sang anyway, so I’m used to it. Yet show kids how they can squeak high as a dolphin, and soon it’s the teachers covering their ears instead…

The audiences who come out with the best remarks are always those who are discovering opera for the first time. One Northern biker complete with pony tail rushed out from a particularly boozy performance, catching us in the car park with, “I’m just on the way to the pub, but I had to ask you, opera, is there really that much sex in it?” I had to admit that, yes, it was pretty much all about sex, when you got down to it. “Brilliant!” he cheered, and wavered off to the local.

One of our highest accolades was when Scunthorpe United were playing a crucial match the night we was entertaining at a posh charity dinner in the city. Despite the fact that the match was being shown in the bar next door, the Scunny fans refused to even be relayed the score, “You’re far less depressing!” they cried. Of course, thanks to our divine musical intervention, the Scunnies won…

Jeremy our poor pianist, however, seems to get the best, ranking amongst his favourites; “You’re just like that Richard Clayderman”, “You almost make that digital piano sound good”, and his all-time top favourite from Yorkshire, “Eh, you’re almost as good as a conjurer!”

Pass the top hat and rabbit, please…

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”
“Britons never will be slaves”?

And while we’re nit-picking, is it

“And guardian angels sung this strain”
“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!