There’s always a sense of trepidation when a student wanders rather sheepishly into the ‘adult’ world, and as I settled into my seat in Leicester’s Curve theatre on Monday night, it seemed as though my fellow opera viewers were altogether a little unfamiliar with the notion of sharing the experience with a nineteen year old, more familiar with William Gallas than Marie Callas.
“Deal with it!” cries the English National Opera, who last October announced its ‘Dress down for opera’ incentive. It is hoped that a casual atmosphere will shepherd a younger student populous through its doors; it seems as though we should expect to see some teenage heads start to pop up alongside those older audience members with a little more frequency.
So began the production; the English Touring Opera’s Così Fan Tutte, a frivolous opera concerning the pains of youthful adoration playing out amongst a rousing score by Mozart. As a first-time opera-goer, I had no idea what to expect; I felt as if I should expect the formality of the occasion to dampen the spirit. I anticipated a suited audience sitting stiffly in their seats like cardboard cut-outs, quaffing pretentiously on their Merlot. This was not the case, and upon reflection I think this stereotype completely unfair.
The opera is not irately middle-class entertainment; tickets come to £15 per head, fairly cheap considering that entry to the Union on some nights will set you back a fiver. Così Fan Tutte felt like a real treat, an opportunity we may not be offered again anytime soon. The theatre is special without being elitist, I never felt any pressure to behave or dress like an Old Etonian (Hailing from Yorkshire, you can imagine how unnatural this might be for me). Dressing formal, however, did seem to be an appropriate sign of respect for the performers and the occasion itself.
The production was wonderfully engaging for a student; Così Fan Tutte is a light comedy sporting a young cast, all sung in comprehensible English. Indeed there is a surprising educational content to this production of Così Fan Tutte; it felt like a preparatory show, an introduction to opera. Having since seen a version in its original Italian, I learnt to appreciate the beauty and musicality of the language; I don’t think I could have done this without my experience at the Curve. It also seemed as though the cast were still learning; Anthony Gregory featured as Ferrando, winning the IndependentOpera Vocal Scholar Award at the Royal College of Music International Opera School as recently as 2010. A great way to experience some culture as close as a ten minute train ride away, give it a go, you might find something a little different to what you expected.
To see what is going on at Leicester’s the Curve, visit http://www.curveonline.co.uk/curve.php?view=homepage.php. To see what the English Touring Opera are doing next, see http://englishtouringopera.org.uk/productions/