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 2017 / 2018
This year, as usual, we have studied three highly contrasting operas.
In the autumn, we watched Verdi's Don Carlos, a riveting production with an enlightening commentary from Phillip on the historical accuracy or otherwise of the depicted story as well as on the production and music.
In the spring we had the final instalment of Wagner's Ring, Gotterdammerung, when Phillip showered us with numerous motifs for us to try to recall at the appropriate time but, in spite of some failures in that respect, an amazing experience.
During the summer term we followed the background to Prokofiev's writing of his opera, the Love of Three Oranges and watched and studied a magnificently staged and sung production.
Finally to finish off the term, we watched Stravinsky's The Rakes Progress as a comparison with The Love of Three Oranges.
In addition, a number of us went to a matinée in November in Milton Keynes of Glyndebourne Touring Opera's Cosi fan Tutti. Then in April 2018 we saw three Welsh National Opera productions, Puccini's Tosca, Mozart's Don Giovanni and Verdi's The Force of Destiny, also in Milton Keynes.
In October we organised a visit to Rome, primarily to see Tosca and visit the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, the Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant'Angelo, the settings for the three Acts of the opera.
Also in 2017, we ran a two-day trip in August to the Aldeburgh Proms where a number of us saw Renée Fleming performing Strauss' Four Last Songs with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) at Snape which was a beautiful setting. Phillip sent flowers to Renée Fleming in appreciation of her performance. We also visited Britten's Red House with private access to the Archive where we were able to see some of Britten's original material. A lovely house and garden with beautiful paintings and many desirable objects. There was also a display of some of Peter Pears' and Benjamin Britten's letters which were very moving.
Membership was 43 for the Autumn and Spring Terms, and 42 for the Summer Term. It is especially good that we have an increase in new members this year and attendance at the ses-sions has been consistently high.
For the coming year we are basing charges on a minimum of 36 members and keeping the fee at £6.00 per session. We have managed to maintain a surplus over the year to cover any unexpected costs with an improved regular membership, but we need to maintain a surplus for equipment replacement and a possible fall in membership.
We have continued to keep our website (www.operaplus.net) up to date so that existing and potential new members can see what is happening and communicate with us. Recently we have updated the website to be compliant with new data protection regulations which came out this summer (2018).
Up and Coming Events
In 2018 / 19 we have another exciting and varied programme, starting in the autumn term with Alban Berg's Wozzeck, followed by Gluck's Alceste in the Spring Term and Rimsky-Korsakov's Le Coq d'or in the Summer.
In October, 21 members will be travelling to Berlin where there are five operas on offer including the Love of Three Oranges (see above) and Wosseck (see below). It will be a busy time with so much to experience in this beautiful city.
As usual we have also booked tickets to see the following operas at Milton Keynes:
27th November: GTO Verdi, La Traviata
28th November: GTO Massenet, Cendrillon
29th November: GTO Behind the scenes at La Traviata