|Let's have much more opera on the beach|
|Life & Entertainment - Performing Arts|
|Written by news desk - telegraph.co.ukm|
Garsington has proved a hit when beamed to the sands of Skegness
Last Sunday, I introduced the first opera ever performed on a beach. Garsington Opera’s marvellous production of Offenbach’s La Périchole was beamed all the way from its magnificent location in the Getty family’s estate at Wormsley to the sweeping sands of Skegness, queen of the Lincolnshire coast. It was all part of a splendidly ambitious project called SO, started a couple of years ago by the local council, not in any way to change “Sunny Skeggy” from its well-loved bucket-and-spade, fish-and-chips image, which has served the town, and millions of happy holidaymakers, so well for many a year, but to expand Skegness’s appeal, by way of art and culture.
So, a great screen was set up on the very beach itself, and the opera performed, as seen by the black-tied audience in the award-winning glass-and-steel theatre at Wormsley, to thousands sitting on the sand, while donkeys took their children for rides, and the adults vainly tried to keep the beach out of their sandwiches. An ambitious experiment that succeeded well enough to be tried again, although a greater attendance of the male section of Skeggy’s population may be anticipated next year, since the opera won’t be competing with a Euro 2012 football final.
I’ve been an opera lover since my late teens, when my pal Ken and I offered our services as “extras” to the Dublin Grand Opera Society’s productions, as a way of getting in for nothing. I have trodden the boards in roles as disparate and demanding as a waiter in La traviata (wearing suede shoes, an anachronism that infuriated the Italian producer) and a blacked-up slave in Aida (the things we suffer for our art, love). All “popular” operas, as I’m not too good on the heavier stuff, never quite making the full circle of Wagner’s Ring.
So, La Périchole was a new one on me, and I didn’t expect such a riotous, jolly, laughter-filled musical comedy that was a lot closer to the Gilbert and Sullivan of my youth than we’re supposed to expect from “grand” opera. And there’s the rub, as far as some of my fellow opera-lovers are concerned. For them, opera is a serious business; a stiff, formal experience. They think it’s wrong to laugh, in case their neighbour will think them unworthy of their seat at a cultural event.
They’re even afraid to applaud, in case nobody else does. It’s a self-conscious nightmare, and such a contrast to my experience of opera in Italy, birthplace of the musical form. In Verona, in the Roman amphitheatre, the crowd cheered and applauded every aria and chorus. It felt as if they were not far from singing along. They even insisted that the tenor sing an encore, something I’ve never experienced here.
Let’s have more beach opera, then. Nobody’s suggesting that you turn up at Covent Garden in sandals and shorts, but the stuffed shirt is a thing of the past.