Instant Opera and Richmond Theatre both celebrated their triumphant returns last Saturday in a one-off Grand Opera Gala performance.
Starting six minutes and 18 months after originally planned, as the night’s Rocky Horror-esque compére/Master of Ceremonies Daniel Wain quipped, the evening encompassed everything there is to love about the arts.
We saw live musicians and singers in their element, performing for the true joy of live performance.
Conducting Instant Opera’s chorus and orchestra, supplemented by the Thames Youth Orchestra and The Richmond Orchestra, Oliver Till kicked off the night with the joyful H.M.S. Pinafore overture.
There was a nervous excitement as everyone settled back into live music and performance in the beautiful Frank Matcham theatre.
A relative opera newbie, my knowledge is unfortunately limited to what I played in school and what I’ve seen in movies — yes, I did first think of The Princess Diaries 2 when I heard soprano Ilona Domnich singing E strano/sempre libera from Verdi’s La Traviata.
So I was more than grateful for Wain’s presence on the corner of the stage throughout the evening, guiding us from Mozart to Verdi, arias to ensemble pieces and island to island.
Between each performance, he provided a brief explanation of where in the world and in the context of each opera we were going, peppering each interlude with quotes from musicals, books and even Opera Wiki.
We moved from solos like Anna Loveday’s expressive and sassy Seguidilla from Bizet’s Carmen to gorgeous duets from Anando Mukerjee and Domnich to big group numbers with as many as six soloists and the entire chorus.
Donning a messy blonde wig, Instant Opera’s artistic director and founder Nicholas George rushed onto the stage towards the end of the night, bumbling around for a bit before launching into a satirical parody of As some day it may happen from Sullivan’s Mikado.
Much to the audience’s amusement, he joked that a letter he was holding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to Richmond Council declared that the lack of arts funding meant someone must be beheaded for the town not to be reduced to the rank of a village.
In deciding who it should be, our mock Prime Minister easily produced a “little list” of all those deemed executable, from booster jobs and track and trace to philistines in government who underfund the arts.
Wain acknowledged the amusing political turn in the evening saying that anyone who felt the libretto to be a little left-leaning could rest assured that next year’s gala would see jabs at the Fib-Dems and Labour instead.
He said: “In my view, opera bears many similarities to politics: over the top characters, far removed from reality, exhibiting heightened histrionic emotions via unbelievable, often unnerving outbursts amid fantastical, illogical plots that invariably end either badly or improbably.”
Instant Opera provided all that and more, most importantly providing a delightful break from reality after a too long break from the arts for us all: 559 days dark at Richmond Theatre, and a nearly two-year pause for Instant Opera.
The evening was a glorious return for both.
The next Instant Opera production will be La bohème at Normansfield Theatre, Teddington in January. More information is available here.
Tickets are available here for upcoming productions at Richmond Theatre.
Feature image: Credit to Instant Opera