Much Ado About Northern Opera – Part 2

August 11, 2019 — 39 Comments

Rehearsals are well underway now for ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and it has been great to meet the rest of the cast and see the imaginative ideas of David Ward and his fellow creatives brought to life. 

Back Row – Edward Robinson, Roger Paterson
Front Row – Louise Garner, Phil Wilcox, Me, David Ward, Catrin Woodruff, Chris Pelly, and Jenny Martins

If you can join us at Morley Town Hall on either Friday 23rd or Saturday 24th August, there are still some tickets left if you are quick. You can buy tickets on the Northern Opera website HERE.

Following on from my post last week I want to share part two of my interview with David Ward, Director of the Northern Opera Group. In this part of the interview, you can read about my character, Hero and my on-stage partner Claudio who is played by Roger Paterson.

Then to close the interview David shares his thoughts on how to engage and attract future audiences to opera.

How would you characterise Hero, my role in the production?

The key to getting Hero right is to get the balance between her purity and innocence, and the flame of mischief and an awakening sexuality.

In our 1950’s set production, she’s clearly the model example of a teenager we find in these great instructional videos of the era – obedient, well behaved, never not chaperoned around a boy … She’s the token ‘Queen’ of the High School Prom – the girl all the boys want, but will never be allowed to get. Think Sandy, rather than Rizzo!

She is, however, turning into an adult, soon to leave home and marry, and start a life slightly removed from those societal structures she has grown up around. She’s emboldened by the attention she’s received from Don Pedro and Claudio (and, we can assume, many other young men) and under the influence of the unconventional Beatrice, it’s crucial we don’t let Hero become simply a wet character – the character’s sympathetic (but dull) victim.

My significant other romantic interest in the opera is Claudio, how do you envisage him?

The opera is marked by the distinction between the two central couples. Whilst Beatrice and Benedick are fighting against society’s norms, Hero and Claudio are living up to them. They are the perfect young lovers – respectful of each other and of the parents, not jumping the gun in following the expected stages of their burgeoning relationship.

Claudio – like Hero – is adjusting to his new place in the world, where he’s no longer a kid in school, but becoming a man. He’s already been to War, and now returns ready to take up his place in society. He’s still rather shy around women – he’s got a lot of emotional growing up to do! – but when he feels that he’s been deceived by Hero, he takes up the alpha-male role that society and culture have taught him to adopt.

But this isn’t the real Claudio. As we discover in the opera’s final scenes, it’s not a role he’s comfortable with, nor one he really wants. He loves Hero, he believes in her, and he recognises his follies. He might have been to War, but there’s still a lot of growing up to do …

I read a tweet from @operamagazine that referenced an article in Vogue Magazine, Can Opera Attract A New Generation Of Fans? At La Scala, Signs Of Hope

Asking Will Millennials Kill Opera, Too?  Can Opera Attract a new generation of fans?  I noticed you had special price tickets for students and young adults with prices starting at £10, £15 and adult tickets £20, what other ways are you trying to engage a new generation of fans?

I think that opera companies of all sizes have to be mindful of how we can attract new audiences.

There are three key things we do to help bring through a new generation of audiences

i) The staging of community productions, where anyone can take part in performing in a fully staged opera, for free. I originally discovered a love of opera through taking part – I didn’t come from a musical family or have any friends who liked opera, however, I was roped into taking part in a show where they were low on male voices and ended up staying! We do a lot of work with local choirs, schools and universities to attract new people to take part, and making participation free is crucial to attracting a wide range of people. Many choral societies and drama groups charge fairly significant fees to take part which prohibits people from joining – particularly those people who aren’t sure if they’ll like it or not. We’ve had people from ages 9 to 80+ take part in previous productions, and by bringing them together with professionals for future shows, we hope to add to the attraction and experience of taking part.

ii) The programming of a range of repertoire, for a range of audiences. By staging rare operas, we’re able to delve deep in opera’s past to find works that will appeal to both audiences new and old. This is particularly important for our community productions, where often a large part of the audience are friends and family of those involved – they need to be attracted by repertoire which sounds enjoyable, accessible and suitable for the whole family. For example, we’ve previously staged Pauline Viardot’s ‘Cinderella’ (a well know and well-loved story) and this December we’re performing Pfitzner’s ‘The Christmas Elf’ which is both a terrific opera and one that should chime with younger audiences this Christmas.  ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is another example of a work which will have appeal to new audiences who are familiar with theatre and Shakespeare.

iii) A commitment to low and affordable tickets. I spend a lot of time fundraising for our productions (we are a registered charity) to ensure that we can keep tickets prices at an affordable level and that we can taper ticket prices suitable for young audiences. We want ticket prices to be affordable so that a whole family can attend – if you think that a West End show might be £40 for the cheapest seats, £160 for a family of four to sit in the Gods can be extremely prohibitive! We also want tickets prices to be at a level where new audiences are willing to take a punt on something new. For our 2018 Festival, we had 40% audiences under the age of 35 which points towards some success in our ambitions to make our work attractive and affordable to young audiences. We have also trialed short, free, pop-up performances in recent years – delivered by a high-quality cast of repertoire that’s suitable for casual and new audiences. From 2020 we’ll deliver one free pop-up tour of a short opera every year to reach new audiences across the North of England.

39 responses to Much Ado About Northern Opera – Part 2

  1. 

    Terrific interview the idea of affordable opera is a good one. It’s great to get some inside information on your characters, Charlotte. Best wishes.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:03 pm

      We’re midway through rehearsals now with our first show on Friday. We have a fabulous cast I’m having a great time.

      I had a day off today and we’re close enough, in Leeds, for me to drive home to my parents last night and get my washing done and have Sunday lunch cooked for me a real treat.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

      • 

        Yes. Washing and a home cooked meal. Reminds me when our daughter used to come home from school. She still comes for the meal but has her own washer and dryer. Break a leg on Friday.

  2. 
    Eberhard Herold August 11, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Most interesting! I liked that interview with David Ward, the director! – The shape of things to come…! Thank you for letting us know about it all…! I wish you great pleasure and success in your new role as Hero…! Keep on…! :))))

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:10 pm

      Thank you Eberhard. Hero is a lovely character, when she gets rejected on her wedding day because her fiancé believes gossip about her cheating on him, I found it difficult to understand why she would forgive him the betrayal in front of the village. Thank you for your good wishes.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte 🙋🏼‍♀️

  3. 

    I’ve named one of my Bengalese finches Hero 🙂 Good luck in the production x

  4. 

    Not only the special prices for younger people, but branching into new territory such as doing ‘Much Ado’ and ‘Bambino’ are bound to attract new fans. Being young yourself, along with your cast members shows the Millennial generation that it takes character to be an opera fan!!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      I absolutely agree GP. I do seem to be attracted to new territories 😊. The pop-up opera tours I’ve done with Scottish Opera were great for getting in new audiences to opera, we had great feedback and much joy at how enjoyable visitors found the productions.

      I still need to find ways to entice more of my old school friends into performances, family get no choice 😂.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  5. 

    Géniale, bravo Charlotte très belle interview, très intéressante. Et très belle vision de l’avenir. Meilleurs pensées, à bientôt !!!

  6. 

    Well done Charlotte, another great post. Good luck in your new role, I know it will be a success. Lots of love 😘😘

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:40 pm

      I’m sad you couldn’t make it this time Gill I hope you enjoy your craft retreat that sounds great fun. If they have any peach, coral papers let me know. I’ll see you in September anyway as I’m home working in Manchester.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  7. 

    I really like Mr. Ward’s approach, and how he is trying to make opera affordable so more people can participate. When we were in Paris in 2013, we had an apartment a block from the opera. We bought mid-priced tickets. They were $200 each. Those were not inclusive prices. The roll of Hero seems to fit you well. You are going to have so much fun with it. The interview was very enjoyable.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:44 pm

      He gave me a super amount of time to carefully answer my questions Thank you Timothy.

      I’ve been to the Paris Opera House once for my 21st birthday I’d love to go all the time 😊. I’ve loved learning all about Hero she’s a lovely character to play. First show opens Friday so final week of rehearsals with orchestra starting which I’m very excited about.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  8. 

    I am convinced, that with the creative ways opera is expressing itself, new devotees, of all ages, shall be cultivated! Carry on!!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:50 pm

      I believe so too Annette, there seem to be some class misconceptions here, it’s a shame we don’t see even more opera and classical music on the tv as it might begin to break down barriers and make the music more known and loved as quite often opera is used in fabulous film moments and advertisements and people love those arias when they get to know them.

      It’s difficult to attend auditions when you’re working so keeping a full calendar to carry on forward momentum is difficult without an agent but I’m doing my best.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  9. 

    Great blog again Charlotte.
    I love the drawings, can’t wait to see you play hero.
    Affordable prices will bring more young people to see opera.xx

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:50 pm

      I’m glad you got your tickets for Leeds can’t wait for you to see the show.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  10. 

    Love the drawings. And great interview.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:52 pm

      They’re great aren’t they to set the scene. David Ward and I did a BBC Radio Leeds breakfast show yesterday great fun.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  11. 

    Such an interesting and insightful interview, Charlotte. Best of luck with ‘Hero’!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:54 pm

      Thank you Clare rehearsals have started well, orchestra rehearsals begin Tuesday with the first show on Friday that I have friends coming to watch so that’s exciting.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  12. 

    Bravo, Charlotte! I think David nailed Hero – what a fabulous interview and I loved the drawings. I think trying to keep the tickets affordable is a most welcome and honorable aim – I hope you succeed. How about a Go Fund Me page to help fund raising.
    If only I could be there!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Some Go Fund Me pages don’t achieve their goals and collapse I’ve heard but I’m sure all avenues suggested are welcome Noelle, productions with a full cast of professional singers and orchestra are costly but so worthwhile because their outcome is electric for the audience, there’s nothing quite like live music.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  13. 

    This is a fab interview, and I absolutely adore the sketches.
    This is a wonderful project to be a part of. Congratulations! Cheers!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 7:27 pm

      I thought of you when I saw the sketches. Glad you enjoyed the interview Resa. I’m so pleased to be involved with this fabulous show.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  14. 

    Lovely interview. I am so happy to hear this ambitious outlook for opera in years to come. Much Ado is a great choice for bringing in a cautious audience. I think you will make a wonderful Hero and hope it goes well.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 7:29 pm

      Thank you Hilary, rehearsals are going well and the orchestral rehearsals start Tuesday before the first show on Friday. I’m really thrilled to be part of this northern opera production it’s a great cast and crew 😊.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  15. 

    I think ‘Story’ is always the foundation for my Interest in something. I don’t think enough people realize how the Stories presented in Opera are not different from the Stories presented in Film, Books, or other Genres of Music. But it took me a while to realize that because the Style of Opera was not something I was familiar with. But as I read your blogs and saw your infectious level of enthusiasm in such a young person, my curiosity peaked and here I am how many years later with a much better understand of your Craft. But yeah, it all comes back to Story. I enjoy the Stories told and the unique way they are told through Opera. It’s strange. I always hear messages of celebrating our differences, yet, we talk about how we have to make things similar for people to accept them.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 8:18 pm

      This is a great comment Eric and I agree with you we must celebrate difference and exploration and yes enjoy the simple retelling of good stories in whatever genre.

      There is nothing better to me than sharing my love of this art form with any audience, new, established, young and some of my favourite audiences have been in less usual settings such as the back of a 40ft truck or in a care home with really enthusiastic people.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  16. 

    Your post with the images did makeme think that West Side Story was halfway to opera.

    Best of luck on this production.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 18, 2019 at 8:24 pm

      Yes I believe so, it has a serious theme based on a more modern day Roméo and Juliette, with some operatic style arias as well as music theatre style songs. West Side Stories European opening was actually in Manchester’s Opera House, so halfway to Opera is a good call.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  17. 

    Magnificent! Cool interview with BBC Leeds… Fantastic pictures & sample!
    Thanks for sharing it with us! :)))) Me likes very much!

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