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Operatunity was a talent search— and Michael Waldman's film that documented it— in which the English National Opera conducted a nationwide search to find someone in the United Kingdom without professional opera experience, who could be coached to sing in a staged opera— Verdi's Rigoletto in the event— on the stage of London's Coliseum Theatre in the company of world-class performers, part of the ENO's regular season.
Audition and choosing
The audition process followed a casting call for submitted videotapes, that resulted in some 2500 entries from a colorful group of which a hundred were auditioned in person, on a bus tour that encompassed regional auditions, which led to a series of London workshops for the final six participants, including an investment banker, a builder—who stood on a scaffolding at a construction site to belt out a Neapolitan song— an ex-police officer, wrestler and model, a supermarket cashier, and a blind mother of three. The finalists received intense vocal coaching and dramatic technique, as well as physical training and the fundamentals of stagecraft. Two finalists were selected, Jane Gilchrist and Denise Leigh, who shared the demanding role of Gilda onstage, in March 2003. The documentary follows their nerve-racking final days before the performance and the exhilaration of their operatic debut, combining real-life drama with the high theatrical drama and emotional intensity of grand opera.
In a sense, Operatunity was an expansion of ENO's program for young opera singers, The Knack, directed by Mary King, a panel member for Operatunity. A criterion for the selection, in addition to raw vocal talent, was the ability of a singer rapidly to put into practice guidance from the coaches. The other members of the panel consisted of Anthony Legge, head of music at the English National opera, Karen Gillingham, an actress singer trained at The Knack, Paul Daniel, conductor at ENO, and Philip Traugott, a classical music album producer.
Operatunity won a RAI Prix Italia in 2003.
Australia and New Zealand
In 2000 in New Zealand a group of singers formed a company called Operatunity and performs a series of concerts of various themes. What started as a venture with 4 venues now tours the whole of New Zealand and performs in 23 cities on a regular 6 weekly circuit. The concerts are performed during the daytime and draw large crowds from far and wide. The Partners are Susan Boland, Geoffrey Hughes and John Cameron all of whom are performing in the concerts on a regular basis as well engaging guest artists and young artists. It has now built into a major employer of singers in New Zealand.
- PBS: Great Performances: Operatunity
- BBC News, "Operatunity knocks as prize is shared" 25 February 2003
- Jane Gilchrist "The Story Behind The Camera In Jane's Own Words"
- RAI Prix Italia 2003
- Denise Leigh - biography and details of her career since Operatunity
- - The New Zealand Operatunity Daytime Concert Series.