By Edward Turner
This year Fitzroy Square Opera is staging a production of Carmen, one of the most popular works in the opera repertoire, on Thursday 27 June.
It’s a story of high passion, jealousy and ultimate tragedy, and was very controversial when first performed in Paris in 1875.
Its centre stage portrayal of a parallel working class world with its own moral codes broke new ground in French opera, attracting hostile reviews.
Its composer, Bizet, didn’t live to see its popular success as one of the most enduring and popular of all operas.
Staging an opera in the open air in the middle of Fitzrovia is always a challenge. It’s not just the logistics of setting up and taking down an opera for a single night each year, but ensuring that the opera breaks even, while remaining affordable to most people (including providing free community tickets).
We need to be able to offer something more than a West End opera experience at the Royal Opera House or the Coliseum; what people say they like is the relaxed outdoor setting and the strong sense of community that we create.
There is something truly magical about bringing the country house opera experience right into the heart of Fitzrovia in summer. Yes, we do suffer from the odd extraneous noise and are always at the mercy of the weather, but ultimately we prove we are masters of our environment for one day at least.
We want Fitzroy Square Opera to be both accessible and artistically rewarding. Carmen fits the bill perfectly, with its blend of familiar tunes and powerful story line. Many people who come to our opera each year wouldn’t normally dream of setting foot in an established opera house where the atmosphere can be perceived to be stuffy or intimidating.
In contrast, we aim to create a welcoming environment for everyone; there’s no dress code, you can picnic on the grass, and the intimacy of a small company of singers and musicians breaks down the barriers between performers and audience. But ultimately, we recognise that the enjoyment of opera is as much about atmosphere as it is about music. And if you don’t want to come into the garden itself to enjoy the opera, we position speakers on the perimeter of the garden to relay the opera to passers-by in the square.
Visit www.fitzroysquareopera.co.uk for more details.