Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for supporting Access for All to the Arts. Today's post is a little different as it looks at a venue and performance outside of London. Occasionally I post on Arts venues outside of the Capital if I feel they have particularly good Access and facilities for those with disabilities.
"Opera Seria is a semi-professional, Manchester-based, chamber opera company, formed to put on a series of high-quality productions of lesser-performed operas (and a few favourites) in their original language for Manchester and the North West of England."
This June, Opera Seria will present their debut production, Donizetti's Anna Bolena, at The Royal Northern College of Music. Performances will be on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June 2012.
"The opera portrays the final days in the life of England's ill-fated queen driven to insanity by her unfaithful husband. The production features an international cast of emerging operatic professionals and a chorus of talented community members and local music students."
I recently spoke with Rochelle Hart who will be playing Anna Bolena in the production and who is also a founding member of the Opera Seria company. Here's what she had to say about Opera Seria and its debut production...
AL: Can you tell us more about who Opera Seria are?
RH: Opera Seria was founded with the interest of giving emerging artists more opportunities to sing roles they might otherwise not get to sing early in their career. We sing everything in its original language, which gives our soloists not only valuable stage experience, but also experience in performing in foreign languages. This will help them as they emerge into the professional world.
We also aim to be accessible to the community. It’s unfortunate that opera has been branded as high brow in the past, and that people are not as interested in going to hear opera (particularly if it’s in a foreign language). We feel that people are missing out on beautiful music, so aim to perform the productions in creative and engaging ways. We’ll also be holding pre-show talks for anyone interested in learning more about the performance they are about to see, running workshops for babies and tweens to get them interested in classical music, and invite local community members to join the chorus or help out backstage. This keeps the operas we produce engaging for not only the soloists, but the community as well.
AL: As a founding member of Opera Seria, what led you to the decision to become involved with this new company?
RH: As an emerging artist myself, I look for any opportunities to build up my experience and to just sing. Opera Seria seemed like the perfect opportunity to utilise my ‘office’ skills but also to get out there and share my love of singing with audiences in Manchester. I also saw there was a hole for a good professional company based in Manchester, and thought it was time that there was one. There are lots of great amateur companies, and Manchester is lucky to be on the touring list for great companies like Opera North and Heritage Opera, but as far as having a ‘home’ opera company, outside the RNCM and the local amateur groups there just isn’t one.
AL: Anna Bolena marks Opera Seria's debut production. Why this piece?
RH: To be honest, we chose Anna Bolena before we realised the Met was doing it and didn’t know there would be a lot of hype about it. We wanted to do something that wasn’t often performed in the UK, to make us stand out from the other companies. The idea was to do something not in the standard rep for smaller groups, staying away from things like La Traviata and Carmen, which are done to death. We wanted something fresh and new, knowing it was a risky move. People go to see La Traviata because they know it, they recognise the music, they can relate to it. People won’t know Anna Bolena in the same way. I think the Met having done it recently will help our cause, as it will be in people’s minds and it’s not been done in the UK recently, but it will still be a hard sell as the music isn’t going to be familiar to people. There is no Queen of the Night aria for people to nod along to, no Brindisi to have them tapping their feet. What they will get, though, is beautiful music by a fabulous composer, sung by some exciting young soloists. There is lust, betrayal and beheadings – what more could an opera goer want?
AL: Are cast members current/founding members of Opera Seria or were auditions held?
RH: Cast members are a combination of founding members and soloists that were found during auditions. While the founding members are experienced soloists in their own rights who want the opportunity to perform, we also want to give the same opportunities to other aspiring opera stars, so do hold auditions to share the love and give others the same opportunities.
AL: What are the most enjoyable aspects of putting on this productions? And, what are the most challenging ones?
RH: Marketing and fundraising is a massive challenge for an unknown opera company doing a less-than-popular opera, but the excitement of the creative process in seeing it all come together is extremely exciting. I think the end product will be something we can all be proud of, and will put Opera Seria on the map as one of the one-to-watch smaller professional companies in the North West.
AL: What can audiences expect from Anna Bolena?
RH: Like I said above – lust, betrayal and beheadings! Beautiful music, a lot of drama and an interesting and creative retelling of the final days in the life of Anne Boleyn. It’s a pretty fantastic story, and we get some excellent costumes to boot!
AL: What can we expect from Opera Seria after June 2012?
RH: We’ll be doing a run of fully staged productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in November, followed by a costumed concert of Roberto Devereux at Manchester Cathedral in January 2013. We’ve got some other pretty big ideas lined up for 2013 – watch this space!
A huge Thank You once again to Rochelle for taking the time to answer some questions. To keep up to date with all of Rochelle's news, see her website www.rochellehart.com . You can also follow her on Twitter @raketje
For more information on Opera Seria, Anna Bolena and their other productions, see their website www.operaseria.co.uk . You can also follow the company on Twitter @OperaSeriaUK
ANNA BOLENA IS AT THE ROYAL NORTHERN COLLEGE OF MUSIC ON 16TH AND 17TH JUNE 2012. TO BOOK ACCESS AND OTHER SEATS, CALL THE BOX OFFICE ON 0161 907 5555.
Access Information for RNCM:
"For events listed as ‘Promoted by RNCM’ disabled patrons can purchase tickets at the concessionary rate. Where a personal assistant is required to enable them to attend they can purchase two tickets with 50% off the full price. Wheelchair users can purchase up to two tickets with 50% off the full price. Please call the box office on 0161 907 5555 for further information.
The RNCM offers a range of facilities to disabled patrons. Please call Reception on 0161 907 5300 to reserve a disabled parking space. Wheelchair access is available, via lifts, to all performing venues and public spaces and we have low-level counters available at the Box Office and Bar. There are disabled toilet facilities on all levels. Guide dogs are admitted, please advise the Box Office when booking your ticket if you are bringing a guide dog.
The RNCM Concert Hall and RNCM Theatre are fitted with Sennheiser infra-red hearing assistance systems and receivers. They are available from Front of House staff on request. Receivers can be used in conjunction with a normal hearing aid (which should be switched to the ‘T’position) or an earpiece available at the venue. Studio Theatre, Carole Nash Recital Room and Lecture Theatre are fitted with induction loops (hearing aids should be switched to the ‘T’ position). Large print and audio versions of this brochure are available from the Box Office (also on disc or by email). Please call the Box Office on 0161 907 5555 for all other detailed information for disabled visitors."
For more information on The Royal Northern College of Music visit www.rncm.ac.uk