Apparently opera is in decline, according to a few voices in the business. Adam Spreadbury-Maher, the newly-appointed artistic director at the recently-refreshed King's Head Theatre in Islington, has stated this week in the press that "opera has died and we need to perform CPR on it". Renowned patrons of the pub-cum-theatre venue include Jonathan Miller, Joanna Lumley and Tom Stoppard. But far from being elitist, the aim of the King's Head is clear - to present opera to everyone for a reasonable price in intimate surroundings to the highest standards.
Spreadbury-Maher has already directed 'La Boheme' at the Cock Tavern in Kilburn (he is also artistic director at this venue) and has now been chosen to lead the Islington partner-in-productions forward as a musical destination. Called The Little Opera House, three well-known operas are confirmed to run from October, including a contemporary re-reading of a Puccini masterwork.
The Barber of Seville (or Salisbury)
From 6th October until 13th November 2010, 'Barber Of Seville' by Rossini will be performed by OperaUpClose, the unfunded and resident production company responsible for the aforementioned and acclaimed 'La Boheme' production (it has transferred to the Soho Theatre to satisfy demand - running from 11th Jan - 19th Feb 2011). Tickets cost just £10 for preview shows on 6th/7th, before rising to £13-£15 - a far and welcome cry from the £70-£150 seats in the grander opera-houses.
The next two operas have also been inked in - 'HMS Pinafore' by Gilbert & Sullivan runs from 17th November to 8th December 2010 (same prices), while the initial trio ends with Madama Butterfly, a modern adaptation of Giacomo Puccini 's much-loved tragedy. Instead of being set in Nagasaki, this rework takes place in Bangkok and is directed by Spreadbury-Maher himself. Again, tickets are a wallet-teasing £15 maximum.
The best bit about the whole 'de-snobbery' of holding opera in a pub? You don't need to don an ill-fitting suit and drink pints that cost £6. We like.