Behind the scenes #LoveTheatre Day

#LOVETHEATREDAY IS A CELEBRATION OF ALL THINGS STAGE. FOR A PRODUCTION TO TAKE PLACE, MANY BEES ARE WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES TO ENSURE WE REACH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE, WITH THE BEST POSSIBLE WORK. HERE ARE SOME OF THE ENGLISH TOURING OPERA BEES…

KATE EBERWEIN, HEAD OF DEVELOPEMENT

What is your role at English Touring Opera, what does it mean?
I’m Head of Development at ETO which means I raise money from many different sources, including individuals, trusts and foundations and companies, in order to help keep the show on the road!

What’s the most exciting thing you do there?
Well it’s incredibly satisfying when a new person signs up to be a Friend of ETO or a trust decides to support us, perhaps by helping stage a new work like Pia de’ Tolomei or by making a gift that allows to us commission and stage a new opera for children with special needs like Dust Child.   New donations to ETO make me feel that we’re communicating our mission in a way that resonates with our audiences and since I’m truly passionate about what ETO does, I feel so pleased that other people are too!

What’s the biggest challenge faced by the performing arts today? How is ETO doing its bit?
I’m not sure there’s a one-size fits all challenge, especially as I notice big regional differences when considering this question.  However, from an opera perspective, I think it’s clear that everyone is concerned about attracting more young people to an art form unfairly tagged as ‘elitist’.  One of the principle reasons which drew me to this role at ETO is the company’s belief that opera is for everyone- this is an ethos that’s at the core of everything we do.  With this in mind, I think we’re helping challenge opera stereotypes by introducing children to opera in schools, providing discounted tickets for young people, and programming a really fabulous mixture of titles to encourage audiences to either try something new (for instance, every theatre outside London in which we performed Pelléas et Melisande had never received this gorgeous opera before) or come to opera for the first time via a ‘classic’ work (We had a fair few new opera-goers at La boheme who described it as ‘the original Rent’!).  I’m really proud of the fact that we cover more of the UK than any other opera company and that James Conway, our General Director, is known for choosing really interesting repertoire (as opposed to playing it safe with a short list of well-known titles).

Do you recall a particular #LoveTheatre moment?
But there are so many!  A real highlight for me was a 2010 trip to ENO to see L’elisir d’amore (translated for their production as The Elixir of Love which I have to say sounds rather prosaic in comparison). I’d previously seen a production with gorgeous singing (I’d cheerfully listen to Aleksandra Kurzak in anything!) but a staging which to me dulled the sparkle of the cast and dramatically lessened the impact of Donizetti’s gorgeous music.  As I recall, it centered around a single giant haystack (!) and left me feeling puzzled, and grumbling about production budgets.   I’m not even sure why I was convinced to see it again… I’d dragged my husband along under duress, so when John Berry came out to announce that the tenor who was meant to star in the role of Nemorino was ill, as was his understudy, I felt an elbow in my ribs and a hissed, “we could still make a run for it and have a lovely dinner instead”.  The audience was told that a suitable tenor who knew the role in English could not be found at such short notice and a Lithuanian tenor named Edgaras Montvidas would perform the role in Italian instead.  Our patience was requested, amidst audible groans from some audience members and laughter from others– we decided that the performance would, if nothing else, certainly be memorable!

In the end it was excellent– Jonathan Miller’s production used a very free translation in which the setting transfered from Italy to the 1950s American Midwest and having a Nemorino singing in Italian with the rest of the cast in English made him seem even more like a lonely outsider in a society not always welcoming of foreigners.  What’s more, Andrew Shore (as a delightfully sleazy Dr Dulcamara) pulled off a phenomenal feat of singing to the rest of the cast in English while singing to Montvidas in Italian– a clear example of a serious professional but also totally believable.  After all, wouldn’t a snake-oil salesman be able to communicate with every potential customer?

I still gush about this production (clearly!)!  It was a really amazing example of turning a potential disaster into a triumph.

A tough one: favourite opera of. all. times?
That’s easy:  Bizet’s Les pecheurs de perles.  A seriously vacuous plot but oh, the music!  The libretto was composed by Eugene Cormon and Michel Carre, with Cormon commenting after the premiere  that they would have written something better if they’d known Bizet was so talented!

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