I have always fancied going to see an opera but whilst I know lots of the really popular tunes, I have always thought I would struggle to follow the story, recognise the characters or understand the plot. I tried to watch Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” on Sky Arts but, despite the hugely theatrical production I just felt lost at not really knowing what was happening – coupled with it not being sung in English which made it all the more difficult to follow.
When the opportunity came up for me to go and see Opera Nova’s newest production – For Better, For Worse – I jumped at the chance. Following the successes of Love, Sex and Death and Opera, It’s One Big Party, For Better For Worse (subtitled the Matrimonial Noose) is an exploration of love and marriage as seen through the eyes of the great operatic composers. Here was a show that promised to extract key wedding and marriage scenes and present them in a ‘novice-friendly’ way. Make no mistake, it may have been made accessible for the uninitiated few like myself, but the quality, the power, the humour and the sheer majesty of the evening was every bit as professional and moving as a full production.
Under the excellent guidance of musical director Richard Bloodworth, and accompanied by Alison Gill on the piano, we were treated to scene after scene of matrimonial merriment and mayhem in equal proportions. Figaro, Don Giovanni, The Bartered Bride and Fidelio were brought to life in beautiful harmony.
I won’t for one moment begin to suggest that I knew all the operas from which the extracts came, nor did I come armed with a knowledge of the stories they were telling, but what Richard did was to introduce each scene with a potted synopsis of the plot so far, the key characters and more than a little humour about what to expect next. He has a wonderfully mellow voice that carried across the audience and gave equal amounts of comfort and excitement about the scene to come. Alison, who played the entire accompaniment, belied her tender years (she is only 27) to deliver a note perfect aural tapestry on which the stories were woven. It was quite amazing to think that the whole auditorium was filled with wondrous sounds all emanating from 1 piano and the human voices on stage.
We left the show with a heightened thirst for learning more about those opera’s from which some of our favourite classical tunes are drawn. We also vowed to dig out our classical CDs and make sure that at least a few were ever present in the car but most importantly we added Opera Nova to our “Must See Again” list and would urge anyone else with even a remote interest in opera to keep watching the listings for their next show.