Opera Plus is a group of like-minded people, mainly from Northamptonshire, who are interested in opera and would like to know more. A tutor is employed to lead us through the intricacies of the music, libretti, staging and production of a wide range of operas together with information about composers, librettists and the social history in the time of the composers' lives.
Importantly, the members are fully involved in the running of the Group and the choice of operas to be studied, with some guidance from the tutor and dependent on the availability of suitable DVDs.
Opera DVDs are viewed on a large screen TV monitor with explanation, analysis, musical insights and interpretations from the tutor using a piano to illustrate the points of interest.
No technical knowledge is necessary – just enthusiasm to listen to and learn more about opera.
A piano, large screen TV, DVD player and loudspeakers have been purchased by the Group to ensure a high quality viewing, clarity and listening experience. They are kept up to date as required.
The History of Opera Plus
The Group originated at The Leicester University Centre in Barrack Road, Northampton in the 1990s; moved to The Mounts in smaller premises in the 2002, and then in 2006 when the university dropped most local courses, Opera Plus was set up independently, through the energy in particular of David Wilkins, Vibeke Romose and the late Richard Fox at the Doddridge Centre with 15 members. Since then membership has grown to about 40.
What We Did 2018 / 2019
Once again we enjoyed three very different operas this year.
We started this year with a considerable jolt to our sensibilities in the form of Wozzeck by Alban Berg. Phillip introduced it to us by showing a film of the story which was quite disturbing and then we were into the opera itself. Most stayed the course and I feel were rewarded a hundredfold. Some were lucky enough to see a live performance in Berlin.
Next came a leap back in time to Gluck and two of his operas, Iphigenia in Tauris and Iphigenia in Aulis with two different versions of each. This was fascinating and revealing in terms of how different productions can enhance and clarify aspects of the opera. To finish the term we watched Alceste as a final flourish of Gluck - I don't think many of us had seen a Gluck opera before and found the music and productions enchanting, although, at times the story line was a bit confusing.
Finally, for the summer term, we were introduced to Le-Coq-d'Or by Rimsky Korsakov, a highly improbable fable based on a folk tale by Alexander Pushkin with an equally improbable Tsar in St Petersburg having to cope with his enemies, his own army and a very seductive Queen of Shebakha. The Cockerel attempts to assist the Tsar by crowing each time he is in danger. Lots of motifs representing the different characters and lots of fun.
During the year there have been opportunities to attend operas at Milton Keynes Theatre at a reduced fee. In November, Glyndebourne Touring Opera (GTO) produced la Traviata and Cendrillon, together with a "Behind the Curtain" extract of Traviata. In March Welsh National Opera (WNO) showed Un Ballo in Maschera, Roberto Devereux and The Magic Flute.
The trip to Berlin in October was a success, in particular, as two of the operas we have studied recently were being performed during our stay; Wozzeck and The Love of Three Oranges.
We have continued to keep our website up to date so that members and those interested in joining can see what we do and what is coming up during the year.
Membership was 45 for the Autumn Term, 41 for the Spring Term and 39 for the Summer.
Up and Coming Events
In 2019 / 20 we have another exciting programme, which include Verdi's Otello, Britten's Death in Venice and Shostakovich' The Nose.
This year we are not running trips to Milton Keynes for the Welsh National Opera but members can book tickets themselves.
The programme is:
Carmen: Wednesday 1st April and Friday 3rd April 2020
The Marriage of Figaro: Thursday 2nd April 2020
Les Vêpres Siciliennes: Saturday 4th April 2020
A trip to the Aldeburgh Proms has been arranged at the end of August to see and hear the Aurora Orchestra and Nicola Benedetti playing Bruch's Violin concerto No 1 and Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique.
Plans are in hand for a trip to Venice in December where the group will see Don Carlo at La Fenice Opera House. A great opportunity to see top class opera at one of Europe's leading theatres.