Intimate Redbridge Drama Centre opera show to share beauty of genre

PUBLISHED: 12:00 15 April 2017

Soprano Elinor Jane Moran stars in OperaUpClose's Opera Cocktail. Picture: Ashley Pearson

Soprano Elinor Jane Moran stars in OperaUpClose's Opera Cocktail. Picture: Ashley Pearson


Visualising an opera performance, it’s likely you’ll conjure up magnificent domed halls boasting gilded balconies, plush red curtains, opulent painted ceilings.

Redbridge Drama Centre Redbridge Drama Centre

But you don’t need to be in grand surroundings to appreciate the beauty of opera, as OperaUpClose has been proving for almost a decade.

The company’s ethos is opening up the art form to people of all backgrounds, and hand-in-hand with that has come staging shows in more intimate settings, such as South Woodford’s Redbridge Drama Centre.

The Churchfields venue will welcome Opera Cocktail on April 28, a production shaking up some of the most popular arias, duets and ensembles by staging them in a playful, modern setting.

Artistic director Robin Norton-Hale told the Recorder: “We’ve done a lot of productions of big operas like La Bohème, which can go to theatres of 400 seats, but what we were finding was there were a lot of smaller theatres which couldn’t accommodate that size of show.

“One of the things we’re very much about is making sure opera is available to people no matter what their economic situation is.

“A lot of our audiences have never been to the opera before.”

Opera Cocktail's Una Reynolds and Marc Callahan. Picture: Chris Tribble Opera Cocktail's Una Reynolds and Marc Callahan. Picture: Chris Tribble

Opera Cocktail features three talented singers, accompanied by a virtuosic pianist, who perform new English translations in an engaging, sometimes humorous, sometimes moving, way, with the music including Musetta’s aria from La Bohème, Carmen’s Habanera and the drinking song from La Traviata.

The show is “high quality, very much real opera”, and even if theatregoers aren’t aware of the names of the pieces, they very likely will recognise the melodies.

A few surprises will also be among the mix, as will an interweaving narrative.

“There’s a story that goes through, a bit of a love triangle situation, which most people unfortunately can relate to in some way,” said Robin.

“It’s going really well, people really respond because it’s exciting to hear opera close up: even if you’ve been to opera, you’ll never have been that close. You can feel it, the vibrations, it’s amazing.”

Addressing stereotypes, the artistic director spoke of how some see opera performers as a bit melodramatic, and described the Opera Cocktail stars as “such detailed actors”.

The music spans centuries, from Mozart to the 1900s, so a variety of styles are incorporated.

OperaUpClose was founded by Robin in 2009, and it’s hard for her to believe how far the company has come.

“We thought we were just setting up as a show for four weeks, we were doing a production of La Bohème in the back room of a pub for 35 people a night.

“So really we started on a much smaller scale and had no idea how popular it would be. We discovered there’s a real appetite for opera, and we’re something a bit different.”

Opera Cocktail will take place at 8pm on April 28 at Redbridge Drama Centre. Tickets are between £7.50 and £12.

To book, visit or call 020 8708 8800.

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