Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | January 11, 2008

The Best Opera Production of 2007 – Boutique Opera NZ

If you are enthusiastic about something that struggles to keep going, through lack of funding or interest, then it is your duty to support that something in whatever way you can. Yesterday I failed in that duty – the New Sussex Opera put on a production of Mozart’s Idomineo in the Town Hall and I didn’t go. It was a wet and wild night and I was lured by a book and a fire.

I regret this decision ever since I discovered that small-scale (I’m not sure if amateur is the right description) opera productions operating on tiny budgets can be just as good – and sometimes even more enjoyable – than lavish commercial productions.

Thanks to Stephanie working in opera, last year we saw 13 productions: which I’ll list so when I’m old and grey and have forgotten most things I can remind myself of what a year it was: at Glyndebourne – Verdi’s MacBeth, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, a dramatised production of Bach’s St.Matthew’s Passion, Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde, Britten’s Turn of the Screw, Donizetti’s Elisir de l’Amore; at Opera Holland Park – Verdi’s Nabucco, Delibes’ Lakme, Montemezzi’s L’Amore de Tre Re; at the Savoy – Porgy & Bess; at Grange Park – The Magic Flute.

Most of these were stunning. Many were produced at enormous cost – with budgets that would make you faint.

But you know what was the most enjoyable production of the whole year? Purcell’s King Arthur performed by Boutique Opera NZ in a community hall in Paraparaumu, just north of Wellington in New Zealand. The quality of singing, the skillful casting of the story in the modern world, the exuberance of the production made it quite simply the most enjoyable opera of the whole year. At the end, the joy that had been generated by the cast was tangible in the hall – you could have scooped it up and bottled it.

I do hope they put on more productions and grow from strength to strength. This post is a homage to them. I hope next year I’ll be able to write as glowingly about the New Sussex Opera’s production!


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