OperaUpClose is a London based opera company, 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. The company has been resident at The King's Head Theatre in Islington, "dubbed 'London's Little Opera House'" since August 2010, but has announced that from 2015, it will move to a larger venue in Kings Place, the 2008 facility located near Kings Cross.
OperaUpClose produces at least four operas a year, all in new English versions.
Productions and production concepts
The operas presented by OperaUpClose have largely been those within the standard repertoire, albeit with changes of location such as The Barber of Salisbury (instead of Seville). Of the standard works, La bohème stands out as having been particularly successful in that it has run for extended periods of time 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."
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.
However, another aspect of the company's overall aim is noted by Norton-Hale: that is the notion of casting to fill dramatic needs, "because we work on a smaller scale..[...] we're able to use singers who are much closer in age to the characters that they're playing."
La bohème opened on 8 December 2009, and ran for five months, making it one of the longest-running continuously performed productions of that opera.
The production was noted for its relocation of the audience to the pub area of The Cock Tavern for the second act, using the pub and its customers to represent the opera's Café Momus.
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 since its opening. The Soho Theatre production won the 2011 Olivier Award for best new opera production. La bohème was revived in 2012 for a 3 month run at the Charing Cross Theatre.
Productions directed by Robin Norton-Hale include La boheme which ran at the The Cock Tavern Theatre, London from late 2009 to mid-2010, transferring for a run at the Soho Theatre, London in January/February 2011 and then presented since March 2011 in repertoire at the King's Head Theatre, London, which, with one exception below, has been the location of all the company's subsequent productions. Rossini's Barber of Seville (or Salisbury) appeared at the King's Head in late 2010. In addition, Norton-Hale directed Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Soho Theatre in August/September 2011.
Adam Spreadbury-Maher has been responsible for two productions, Madam Butterfly (or Bangkok Butterfly) from late 2010 to Spring 2011 and Tosca in late 2012. In addition there have Emma Rivlin's Cinderella, Anna Gregory's Pagliacci, and Rodula Gaitanou's Carmen, all having taken place in the 2011/12 period.
Outside of the mainstream, OperaUpClose has presented Puccini's La fanciulla del West directed by Robert Chevara; Benjamin Britten's The Turn Of The Screw directed by Edward Dick; and Claudio Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea directed by Mark Ravenhill.
Flourish is OperaUpClose's annual new opera writing competition, for which the company was awarded a "one off" grant from Arts Council England. The winning opera is produced in full by OperaUpClose and performed at The King's Head Theatre. The judging panel for the 2012 competition was playwright, director and OperaUpClose Associate Director Mark Ravenhill; Opera Holland Park producer James Clutton; librettist Glyn Maxwell; and composer Robert Saxton and the winner was Guy Harris who composed The Two Caravans, based on the novel of the same name by Marina Lewycka, with a libretto by Ace McCarron. Two Caravans received its premiere in The King's Head Theatre's during the autumn season, 2013.
- 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)
- Mortimer, p. 14
- Imogen Tilden (25 September 2014), "OperaUpClose to leave King's Head, Islington, for fresh challenges", The Guardian (London)
- "La bohème(Kilburn)". whatsonstage.com. 1 Jan 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
- Woolman, Natalie (12 March 2010). "OperaUpClose's La Bohème to open at the Soho Theatre". The Stage. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- "Puccini's La bohème performed in London pub". London: Telegraph TV. 14 December 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
- Laurence Olivier Awards' (official website). List of winner 2011
- Mortimer, Owen, "Company of the Month: OperaUpClose", Opera Now (London), December 2012, p. 14
- Dromi, Uri, "From romance, to war, to Mammon. An unforgettable holiday sampling of the bounty of London's stages", Haaretz, 8 April 2010.
- Moss, Stephen, "OperaUpClose: Puccini in the pub", The Guardian, 3 December 2009 (contains production photos)
- Shore, Robert, "OperaUpClose takes Puccini to a pub. Now that really is bohemian", The Times, 27 December 2009
- Cock Tavern Theatre official website
- King's Head Theatre official website Retrieved 20 December 2012
- What's On Wales Interview