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King's Head Reborn as New 'Little Opera House'

PLEASE NOTE: This story has been edited since its first appearance on 17 September 2010

The newly appointed artistic director of Islington's King's Head Theatre Adam Spreadbury-Maher, who takes over full time from next month, plans to relaunch the famous Islington pub theatre as London's "little opera house" and a full-time producing venue.

Spreadbury-Maher's inaugural King's Head programme is due to be announced within the coming days, but he's already given Whatsonstage.com an overview of his plans. Speaking to theatregoers at our recent Outing to La Boheme at Soho Theatre, Spreadbury-Maher, who was appointed as artistic director in March and will fully step into the role in October, announced that his reign at the King's Head would be launched on 14 October 2010 with OperaUpClose's production of The Barber of Seville (or Sailsbury), adapted and directed by La Boheme's Robin Norton-Hale with whom he artistically directs the intimate opera company. The production runs until 13 November 2010 (previews from 6 October 2010).

The production, which will open at the King's Head in October, will kick off a busy period for the company, with their production of La Boheme, which transferred to the Soho from the Cock Tavern, having recently added more dates at the Soho Theatre with additional performances from 11 January to 19 February 2011.

Speaking during the Whatsonstage.com question and answer session, Spreadbury-Maher said his King's Head tenure would launch "with a programme which is dominated by opera and musical theatre, particularly new work." OperaUpClose plan to present the UK premiere of Philip Glass' opera The Sound of a Voice at the venue following the piece's one previous performance in America. The company will also present Shostakovich's light opera Cheryomushki followed by a Christmas run of Puccini's Madam Butterfly, in a new and radical translation by Ben Cooper. Spreadbury-Maher will direct both operas.

Spreadbury-Maher has also managed to secure Jonathan Miller, one of the world's leading opera directors, as a patron who will also direct productions at the 120-seat venue. Playwright Mark Ravenhill (Shopping & F**king, Mother Clapp’s Molly House) has also been appointed as an associate director. It has been announced that he will write and direct two operas at the King’s Head in 2011.

An Australian-born director and producer, Spreadbury-Maher originally trained as an opera singer. The artistic director of both OperaUpClose and Good Night Out Presents, he founded the Cock Tavern Theatre in Kilburn, becoming the venue's artistic director in January 2009. His artistic leadership of that venue and a policy of staging only new work or carefully chosen revivals has drawn praise from critics, including a Peter Brook Empty Space award for his opening season.

Upon taking the King's Head role in March, he said that both OperaUpClose and Good Night Out Presents would become resident companies at the theatre with the aim "to create an alternative to London's two opera houses, by creating our own little opera house." Spreadbury-Maher follows in the footsteps of Dan Crawford the venue's founder and artistic director. Since Crawford's death in 2005, the venue had acted mainly as a receiving house, under the management of long-serving associate and Crawford's widow, Stephanie Sinclaire, as creative director.


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