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OperaUpClose is a touring opera company, based in London and led by Artistic Director Robin Norton-Hale. The company was founded in 2009 to produce its début production, Robin Norton-Hale's Olivier Award winning, modern adaptation of Puccini's La bohème at The Cock Tavern Theatre.[1]

OperaUpClose produce new English language versions of the standard repertoire and World Premieres of new operas. 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. Since being founded in 2009 OperaUpClose has produced twenty-five operas: six world premieres of contemporary operas and nineteen classic operas in newly commissioned chamber orchestrations and English librettos. Their production of La Bohème won the 2011 Olivier Award for Best Opera Production and the WhatsOnStage.com Award for Best Off-West End production; and our world premiere of The Blank Canvas won the 2015 Off West End Award [2]for Best Opera.

Between 2010 and 2015 OperaUpClose was the resident company at The King's Head Theatre in Islington[3] managing all operations and programming of the venue. From that date "the company will work in a variety of larger venues in London, including Kings Place, Soho Theatre and Tricycle Theatre, and further develop its touring output across the UK."[4] The company is an Associate Company of Soho Theatre [5] and co-produce with the Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Tricycle Theatre, Kings Place and Malmö Opera (Sweden). It tours within the UK and internationally. OperaUpClose has produced at least four operas a year, all in new English versions.

In 2014 OperaUpClose began operating as a charity. Ending their residency at the King’s Head Theatre in 2015 allowed them to develop touring; education and participation programmes; and "to create more ambitious and innovative productions than a residency in one small theatre allowed".

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 production 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, at the Ravenna Festival in Italy in 2014 and tours to this day.

2015 season onwards[edit]

In 2015 OperaUpClose presented the world premiere of Unborn in America by composer Luke Styles and librettist Peter Cant, as part of the Vault Festival; revived their production of Verdi's La Traviata at Tricycle Theatre; opened a new production of Bizet's Carmen at Soho Theatre; presented the World Premiere of Anthony Young and Leanna Brodie's family opera Ulla's Odyssey at Kings Place; and continued to tour the UK with their production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.

In 2016 OperaUpClose created their first education and participation programme. Partnering with Theatre in Education company, Big Wheel, and funded by Arts Council England, they created a series of workshops that tour with their children’s opera, Ulla’s Odyssey. The workshops explore what an opera is, how they are performed etc., in order to give children from as young as seven the tools and confidence to enjoy opera for the rest of their lives.

Past productions outside the standard repertory[edit]


Flourish is OperaUpClose's new opera writing competition, supported by Arts Council England.[3] The competition aims to provide a platform for emerging and established composers and librettists, and to raise awareness of the wealth of contemporary opera being written today. The winning opera is produced in full by OperaUpClose. 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.

Last year’s winner, They Came Back tells the stories of five individuals struggling – in a familiar world made unfamiliar – to come to terms with the phenomenon of the deceased returning to life. Composed and libretto by Martin Ward, this production combines an electronic score with live performance and will premiere at in autumn 2017. The 2017 submission deadline is 5th June 2017.



  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. ^ "OffWestEnd.com - The_offies_photos_2015 - The definitive guide to London's Off West End theatre scene, featuring listings and details for over 80 theatres, news, discussion and exclusive special offers". www.offwestend.com. Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  3. ^ a b Mortimer, p. 14
  4. ^ 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. ^ Rupert Christiansen, "La Fanciulla del West, Opera UpClose, and La Traviata, Merry Opera Company, review", The Telegraph (London), 10 February 2012
  12. ^ Katy S. Austin, "Manifest Destiny 2011" on bachtrack.com, 12 September 2011 Review]
  13. ^ 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]