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OperaUpClose is a London-based opera company which also tours the UK. It is run by Artistic Director Robin Norton-Hale. The company was founded by Norton-Hale, Associate Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher and former producer Ben Cooper in 2009 to produce its début production, director Norton-Hale's translation and modern adaptation of Puccini's La bohème at The Cock Tavern Theatre.[1]

The operas presented by OperaUpClose have largely been those within the standard repertoire, albeit with changes of location such as The Barber of Seville becoming The Barber of Salisbury. Of the standard works, La bohème stands out as having been particularly successful in runs for extended periods and has transferred to a West End location. As Mortimer notes, "The hope is that the move will build on the company's success in attracting new audiences to try opera for the first time".[2]

Using a single pianist instead of the traditional full orchestra, minimal sets, and a cast of young singers at the very start of their careers has resulted in a scale of production which enabled the audience to be mere metres from the performers, and ticket prices which were a fraction of the cost of full productions in London's opera houses.[3]

OperaUpClose was resident at The King's Head Theatre in Islington from September 2009 to January 2015[2] and from that date "the company will work in a variety of larger venues in London, including Kings Place, and further develop its touring output across the UK."[4] The company is an Associate Company of Soho Theatre [5] and it tours within the UK and internationally. OperaUpClose has produced at least four operas a year, all in new English versions.

The company achieves success with La bohème[edit]

La bohème opened on 8 December 2009 and ran for five months, making it the longest-running continuously performed productions of that opera.[6] The production was noted for its relocation of the audience to the pub area of The Cock Tavern for the second act, described by George Hall in The Guardian as "a masterstroke to transfer the Café Momus scene downstairs – to the bar – where it becomes impossible to be sure who is a member of the chorus and who is an innocent bystander having a drink."[7][8]

The OperaUpClose La bohème transferred to the Soho Theatre for a 6-week run from 27 July 2010 (followed by a further 6-week run in January/February 2011) and was the first opera to play at the theatre. The production won the 2011 Olivier Award for best new opera production.[9] and the 2011 Whatsonstage.com Awards for Best Off-West End Production.[10] La bohème was revived in 2012 for a 3 month run at the Charing Cross Theatre.

2015 season[edit]

Apart from works in the standard repertory, the company will present the world premiere of Unborn in America by composer Luke Styles and librettist Peter Cant, who will also direct the production as part of the Vault Festival in January and February. [11]

Later in the year, the European premiere of Ulla's Odyssey, by New Zealand composer Anthony Young and librettist Leanna Brodie, which will be directed by Valentina Ceschi will be given at Kings Place October and November.[4]

Past productions outside the standard repertory[edit]


Flourish is OperaUpClose's annual new opera writing competition, supported by Arts Council England.[2] The winning opera is produced in full by OperaUpClose and performed at The King's Head Theatre. Previous judges have included Mark Ravenhill, Opera Holland Park producer James Clutton, Glyn Maxwell, Robert Saxton, Imogen Tilden, Luke Styles, Anna Pickard and Clare Presland.

The 2012 winner was Two Caravans by composer Guy Harries and librettist Ace McCarron. The 2013 winner, The Blank Canvas, was written by composer Spyros Syrmos from a libretto by Fay Wrixon. Ulla's Odyssey by composer Anthony Young and librettist Leanna Brodie won in 2014.



  1. ^ Moss, Stephen (December 15, 2009). "Opera has the last shout as Boheme hits the boozer". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 May 2010.  (reprinted from The Guardian, 3 December 2009)
  2. ^ a b c Mortimer, p. 14
  3. ^ "La bohème(Kilburn)". whatsonstage.com. 1 Jan 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Imogen Tilden (25 September 2014), "OperaUpClose to leave King's Head, Islington, for fresh challenges", The Guardian (London)
  5. ^ "OperaUpClose" - brief overview on sohotheatre.com
  6. ^ Woolman, Natalie (12 March 2010). "OperaUpClose's La Bohème to open at the Soho Theatre". The Stage. Retrieved 3 June 2010. 
  7. ^ George Hall, "La boheme Cock Tavern, London", The Guardian (London), 7 January 2010
  8. ^ "Puccini's La bohème performed in London pub". London: Telegraph TV. 14 December 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Laurence Olivier Awards' (official website) List of winner 2011
  10. ^ "Full List: 2011 Whatsonstage.com Award Winners", 20 February 2011 on whatsonstage.com
  11. ^ Unborn in America-a cabaret opera by Luke Styles", on vaultfestival.com
  12. ^ Rupert Christiansen, "La Fanciulla del West, Opera UpClose, and La Traviata, Merry Opera Company, review", The Telegraph (London), 10 February 2012
  13. ^ Katy S. Austin, "Manifest Destiny 2011" on bachtrack.com, 12 September 2011 Review]
  14. ^ George Hall, Turn of the Screw-review", The Guardian (London) 8 July 2011


  • Mortimer, Owen, "Company of the Month: OperaUpClose", Opera Now (London), December 2012, p. 14

External links[edit]