Pop-Up Opera : Spring Tour

strong>Pop-Up Opera est une compagnie qui imagine et met en scène des Opéras classiques dans des endroits originaux comme des fermes, des pub ou encore des églises. Ces endroits permettent la proximité avec le public. Les Opéras sont présentés dans les langues d’origines et la mise en scène insite les spectateurs à prendre par au spectacle.


Jai eu la chance de poser quelques questions à Clémentine Lovell, la fondatrice de Pop-Up Opéra (in english!).

Could you present Pop-Up Opera? Why have you created the company? What are your motivations?

I (Clementine) created the company after spending a couple of years living in Italy as part of my operatic training. I noticed that opera is performed in the smaller towns and theatres, not just the large cities and traditional opera houses, and that it is appreciated by a much broader section of the population. I felt that opera in the UK was perceived as being more ‘elitist’ and this along with other other stereotypes put many people off going. I wanted to help change the perception that opera is stuffy and formal, and to bring new audiences to opera. I wanted to break down the barrier between the audience and the performers, and to make the story come alive in an intimate environment where opera was engaging and inviting. I also wanted to provide a platform for up and coming young opera singers, as it is very hard to break through into the larger companies without experience, and you can’t get the experience without the roles!

How this idea came alive?

I had performed a series of opera scenes in a barn in Herefordshire, a venue which usually hosted folk and blues music. Many of the audience members had never been to an opera, but they loved it. This gave me the idea that opera could be performed in many different venues, and that by putting it into a less formal environment. I was clear that I wanted the operas sung in their original languages, so the story needed to be put across through the acting, movement and drama. I found a stage director, Darren Royston, who really understood what I was trying to achieve, and whose background was in dance and movement. He draws on elements of commedia dell’arte, using props and dynamic movement to tell the story. We had to make it work on a very small budget, so part of it was about just going out there and making it happen. I ran it as a profit share initially, so all the singers and directors had to come in on faith, but they all believed in what we were trying to achieve. I wanted to bring the productions to lots of unusual venues, so I approached different kinds of spaces, from a boat made of scrap metal, to an underground tunnel shaft beside the Thames.

Pop-Up Opera

What are the differents between Pop-Up Opera and a classic opera in an Opera House?

It is a totally different way of experiencing opera. For a start the singers are just feet away from the audience, at times in amongst them and interacting with them. In an intimate space you can’t just ignore the audience, you have to draw them into the action. It also ‘breaks the ice’ and makes them feel more relaxed and involved in the story. We adapt the production to each venue that we go into. This is a challenge for the singers as each space is completely different and they need to think on their feet a lot more (we only have a few hours ‘get in’ time in each place). This keeps the performances very fresh, and each one is unique. We create the ‘set’ from things we find at each venue, arriving and leaving with our suitcases of props. We don’t have the budget of an opera house, but this forces us to be very inventive and resourceful. Like many opera houses, we perform the operas in the original languages, but we have ‘silent-movie’ style captions to keep the audience abreast of the story, rather than subtitles translating every word. I didn’t want the audiences to spend the whole time looking at a screen, and to allow the music and drama to tell the story. After all, with the singers this close, the audience are more able to read the expressions and emotions in their faces.

Do you think it’s the future of the Opera? Is it more accessible for the audience (price, venues…)

I think it’s an important step in bringing new audiences to opera. The genre is widely considered to be elitist, but it is not opera itself which is elitist. The themes in opera are universal, and the emotions are ones we’ve all experienced: love, rage, passion, loss. I’ve had countless emails from people saying they didn’t expect to enjoy it and were apprehensive, but absolutely loved it, « the hidden door to opera has been opened ». I would hope that these people would now consider trying opera in one of the great opera houses as well if they can. It is also about making it affordable. To be able to see something in a pub for £20, when you would have to pay hundreds of pounds for a front row seat at the opera house. Many people can’t afford that, but why should they have to miss out on such a wonderful art form?


How do you work with the singers?

We stage the productions in a rehearsal venue with our director and musical director, and then adapt to each new space we go into. The singers have to be able to improvise to an extent, and to be willing to interact with the audience. The comedy is very important in making the performances enjoyable and in breaking down the ‘stuffiness’ associated with opera. The singers need to be able to bring out the story and the drama, whilst maintaining a high standard of musical performance.

What is going on next with Pop-Up Opera?

We begin our summer production, Rita & La Serva Padrona, in June. This is an exciting new idea, as we will be intertwining the two operas to form one piece, with characters from both stories interacting with each other on the same set. We will be touring venues including barns and boats, churches and caves, in London and UK touring from 3rd June.



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