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A Guide To Opera Singers And Special Events

A guide for opera singers and special events

Opera is a magical entertainment combing some or world’s greatest music with drama and costume and features every situation in life.  That is why it has a unique appeal.  Long gone is the concept that opera is an entertainment fit only for the elite or wealthy.  Initially through the Three Tenors (Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras at the World Cup) opera began to have greater general exposure and appeal.  People realised that quite the opposite from being stuffy and elitist it was in fact the most wonderful, spine-tingling entertainment.  Opera is moving and dramatic but there is an equal degree of fun, humour and wow factor.  It can touch and entertain you in a way that no other music can.  It features the human voice in its most accomplished form.  If you have not heard a quality opera singer at close quarters then you are in for a treat!

There are three basic ways of presenting a performance:

1) You may wish to have a full opera production in two parts, which can include a long interval break as established at Glyndebourne Festival Opera
2) Alternatively you could present highlights from a specific opera such as ‘La Traviata’, ‘The Magic Flute’ or ‘Carmen’ for instance.
3) Probably the most popular and practical is to present a programme of arias and ensembles from the best loved operas, operetta and musicals.  This works particularly well if you link the performance with a dinner or reception.
4) You can present opera for a larger scale indoor or outdoor event which could need cover for the performers and amplification.

Artists (a note of warning!):
Opera can be the most exhilarating of entertainments and can literally transform an event into something truly memorable. However of all the entertainments it can fall short and disappoint if it is not of a high enough standard.  It is essential to make sure the company you select has an established track record and engages artists who have appeared with other established opera companies.  If you are unable to hear them live in a performance ask where they have appeared previously and recently.  Do they have good references, is it possible to speak to past or current clients on the telephone?  A good indication of standard and style would be a company showreel or sound clips and a quality website.  Any company worth looking at should have all of these.  Budget of course will be an issue but as with most things in life it is often a false ecomony to go on price alone if you are looking for something of quality.  There is no reason why your singers should not sound AND LOOK good.

Accompaniment:
Opera will always need an accompaniment which can be a piano only, an instrumental ensemble or a full orchestra.  For a short selection you could use a backing track which can be very effective.  An electric piano is a last resort – good singing deserves an appropriate accompaniment. 

Programme:
A good company should be felxible about what they can perform and be able to include any special requests you may have.  They should make you feel comfortable and work together with you as client to create the perfect selection, in addition to making appropriate suggestions after a brief from you.  A ballanced programme should include some lighter moments and have something for all your guests’s enjoyment.  A good source for finding pieces is on Youtube (www.youtube.com) which has an ever expanding repertoire of opera performed by the greatest artists.  However, do be warned as one aria leads to another performance and artist which can be rather addicitive. If your fantasy is to have an operatic version of your favourite pop song don’t be afraid to ask for it!

Events:
Opera if presented appropriately can appeal to the whole age range of audience and additionally can be enjoyed by all nationalities.  Opera has been successfully presented for private, charity, corporate performances as well as product launches, weddings, funerals, christenings, hotel promotions …. the list is endless. 

This article was kindly contributed by Philip Blake-Jones - Artistic Director of London Festival Opera and Opera Interludes