Jeff Clarke on Opera della Luna
Date: 4 October 2011
What can Opera della Luna's approach bring to operetta classics such as Ruddigore?
A chance to hear the score a-fresh in a version that includes some modern humour without losing the charm of the original. Professional productions of Ruddigore are rare – although, by pure coincidence, Opera North has a production out at the same time. This is a chance to hear it well sung and well acted by professional artists.
Does this approach bring in a new audience? If so, why?
Yes. Those that get to know our work are aware that we perform the pieces in a new way. Many people say to us that they normally hate the Gilbert and Sullivan Savoy operas but love our shows.
I guess there are many reasons, but basically we rid the shows of old traditional bits of business that have become tired, we look at the shows as though they were new writing and we bring a very energetic and inventive style to our productions. We find in venues that we visit regularly that we have built a regular following as well as bringing in a new audiences.
Are some of the Gilbert and Sullivan pieces more relevant to the 21st century than others? If so, which, and why?
I don’t think I could single out some as being "relevant" – it’s really that some bear re-staging in a modern context better than others. Our Sorcerer and Mikado are both set in the present day – well Sorcerer was 1970s rather than 1870s.
Equally, I don’t think that it’s a problem if a piece is set in its period. Our HMS Pinafore is definitely Victorian – but its just as much fun as the others. What Gilbert was usually satirising is the British psyche and our attitudes to class, authority, and institutions – and those foibles haven’t changed.
Is this true for other composers such as Offenbach, Johann Strauss and [Lehár]?
Yes, I think so. Obviously you have to take each piece on its merits. But any piece that has something to say, and is worth doing, will have potential for re-inventing for a current audience. We are about to embark on a new production of The Merry Widow - which concerns itself with a European country in the Balkans, on the brink of bankruptcy..... what could be more topical!
My firm principle is that the theatre is not a museum and any piece needs to have something to say to the audience that is going to see it. A historical re-production of something created for a different age is not of any interest to me.
Opera della Luna also produces music-related plays such as Nightmare Songs. How important is this sort of cross-over?
It is always interesting to do something new and something that pushes boundaries. Our staple fare of G&S and operetta keep us going and keep the wolf from the door – but I am always excited to do move into new territory. Musical plays are certainly something which I feel we could explore to a greater degree.
What new productions and revivals are in the pipeline?
Besides the new Merry Widow there are I hope, going to be some further performances of our Don Giovanni which was performed at a number of festivals this summer.
- by Anne Morley-Priestman
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