Plays, musicals, ballet… I adore these classic forms of on stage art but I’ve never given much thought to seeing an opera, especially in London. I’d only once seen an opera in Verona and it was an experience like no other. Emotional, dramatic songs of Aida echoed out across the open Arena di Verona, stunning the audience and bringing a hastily wiped away tear to my eye. It was extremely powerful and exciting, yet I based most of my enjoyment on the ambient setting and never considered going in my own home.
Last month I was honoured to be invited to a performance of the classic tale of Tosca, by the English National Opera, taking place at the London Coliseum, a venue I had yet to explore. I invited Papa Shepherd (who as you can tell from his many appearances on my blog passed down his love for food, travel and culture!) and we headed out for a night at the opera.
The ENO have just recently launched a programme called Opera Undressed, encouraging city dwellers and opera virgins to experience this dramatic art form in all its glory. I couldn’t believe the offering; fantastic seats for top shows, an exclusive pre-performance talk to help you understand the upcoming production AND an invitation to an after party with some of the cast including a complimentary Sipsmith G&T! And I’ll give you a virtual high five if you can guess how much for…
That’s right. Just two £10 notes. Or 20 £1 coins if you’re so inclined.
Our night at Coliseum began with a talk in the luxurious theatre by Christopher Cook, a well known Radio 3 DJ, who informed us about the tale of Tosca whilst interviewing the Chorus Manager. The story of Puccini’s famous score follows the dramatic, political life of opera singer Tosca and her lover, who after hiding a wanted man, is taken by the sadistic police chief who wants the leading lady all for himself. Expect joy, humour, tears and outrage before, of course, an ending more climatic than any box office thriller…. okay somewhat.
After the first act, we were invited up to the Royal Box for a quick glass of fizz and chat with CEO Cressida Pollack about the idea and success of Opera Undressed.
The views of the theatre were magnificent and it was amazing to see the stage from where many Royals and celebrities alike will have sat with their diamond encrusted binoculars… not that you’d need them.
Two acts, an interval and a standing ovation later, the crowd dispersed, leaving the Undressed attendees to head upstairs for a drink and natter.
The bar was lined with Sipsmith and Fever-Tree gin and tonics to be enjoyed to a party scene whilst in a back room lined with fairy lights an exclusive gin tasting took place. Two members of the cast later joined the party, answering questions and taking praise for their incredible performance.
If you’re unsure about the opera but up for giving it a go, I wouldn’t hesitate to attend an Opera Undressed evening. I felt like a VIP in one of the city’s most luxurious venues and a got a taste for an art form that I would never have seen otherwise.
The ENO has many upcoming performances including Rigoletto in February 2017 and The Pirates of Penzance in February and March. Make sure to check out their dates and sign up for this fantastic scheme.
Our tickets to Opera Undressed were complimentary but as always all views are my own, despite how much Prosecco is consumed.