Gubbay Launches Cheap Year-Round Opera at SavoyDate: 29 October 2003
As previously tipped (See The Goss, 15 Sep 2003), from next spring, London will have a third permanent opera house. Impresario Raymond Gubbay and theatre owner Stephen Waley-Cohen have teamed up to launch the new Savoy Opera, which will be based at the West End's Savoy Theatre (pictured), where it will perform popular pieces with tickets priced at less than half the norm for opera.
The first Savoy season will kick off in April 2004 with performances of Rossini's Barber of Seville and Mozart's Marriage of Figaro running in repertory from 5 April to 19 June 2004. These will be followed by Bizet's Carmen and Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore (28 June to 11 September 2004), Verdi's La Traviata and Offenbach's La Belle Helene (20 September to 4 December 2004) and Mozart's The Magic Flute (13 December 2004 to 5 February 2005).
The new company will be under the artistic direction of Steven Pimlott, David Parry and Sarah Playfair, who have previously worked together at the Leeds-based Opera North. Pimlott is familiar to London theatregoers for his many productions as an RSC associate director and for the current West End musical Bombay Dreams. He is also joint artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre (See "Changing of the Guard", Features, 21 Apr 2003).
Producer Raymond Gubbay has previously backed numerous D'Oyly Carte seasons of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas at the Savoy, while this Christmas, he's presenting a pair of productions, The Pirates of Penzance and Peter Pan, starring Anthony Head, at the theatre (See News, 1 Sep 2003).
Elsewhere, Gubbay has had success with his in-the-round opera presentations at the Royal Albert Hall as well as high-profile musical revivals like Follies and this summer's On Your Toes, starring Adam Cooper, at the Royal Festival Hall. All of which is in addition to the 600-plus classical concerts he mounts across the country each year.
Built in 1882, the Savoy Theatre was the original home for numerous premieres of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. It was the first public building to be lit throughout by electricity. The theatre was virtually destroyed by fire in 1990 but, after extensive refurbishments, it reopened in 1993.
With a capacity of some 1,100 seats, the Savoy is about half the size of Covent Garden's Royal Opera House, a factor that will contribute to the company's aim to produce more intimate and accessible productions. Towards that end, the operas will also all be sung in English, with ticket prices capped at £50, compared to up to £170 at ROH.
In an interview with BBC One's Breakfast programme, Waley-Cohen said: "We do not see ourselves as competition, we see ourselves as creating a bigger market place."
- by Terri Paddock