Small-scale opera is a thing nowadays, not surprising given the economies involved. Lots of popular classics have been doing the rounds - La Boheme, Carmen, La Traviata, G&S, etc., as well as arrangements of less mainstream works. Anything to get opera out and about and attract new audiences everywhere is to be greatly applauded. But it has to be admitted the resulting musical experience without orchestra and choruses is likely to be underwhelming compared to the experience that was intended. Just as we like ‘Early Music’ to sound right with period instruments, so grand opera needs to be savoured as the ‘real thing’, performed by the forces and in the spaces it was written for. But it’s worth noting that theatres in the 17th and 18th century (1000 seats) were nowhere near as large as those built in the 19th century (around 2000 seats) - and these are dwarfed by the monster new-builds and extensions of the 20th (3000 to 4000 capacity). In these auditoria, most spectators are distant from the stage, many spy on the performance through opera glasses and typically listen with acoustic enhancement (amplification) even if they’re not aware of it. By contrast, small-scale opera in intimate venues allows the audience to feel close to the stage and feel more involved in the drama. Clearly, voices don’t need to be so large (and wobbly) and don’t have to strain; they can, more often than not, sound more detailed and beautiful. The challenge we face, therefore, is to create new, tailor-made, small-scale works that appeal to audiences everywhere and enhance the repertory of sung dramas that are so powerful and compelling.
The Music Troupe was founded by composer Edward Lambert in 2014 to perform, amongst other things, new small-scale operas. We wanted to bring back the art of beautiful singing into new operas that are designed for smaller spaces: works that aren't scaled-down productions of grand opera but new chamber pieces in which the music and drama are tailored, not trimmed, to an intimate experience. Nine productions later, the group has given valuable opportunities to a wide range of nearly 70 performers and creatives (see below). We have recently made a movie of Last Party on Earth, which was also performed semi-staged at The Cockpit, London as part of the 2020 Tête à Tête Opera Festival. Performances of The Duchess of Padua planned for early 2021 have been postponed while In Five Years' Time and The Butterfly's Spell are also in the pipeline.
”…the next generation is looking to buy their vegetables at a farmers' market, not a supermarket. They want that taste, that crunch, that flavour. I think they're looking for more intimate musical experiences where you're close enough to taste the quality of the work. Opera can operate on many different levels, for many different metabolisms and on many different social scales and that diversity is a very good thing."
Peter Sellars, The Independent, 26/02/2015
The Duchess of Padua
a parlour opera in four acts
after the play by Oscar Wilde
Performances planned forJanuary/February 2021
have been postponed
A Gothic drama of revenge, passion and murder turned into a ‘parlour opera’…
In this early play by Wilde, the beauty of his verse mattered more than the realistic portrayal of character and the credibility of the drama. At times melodramatic, at times sentimental, with everything in between, this adaptation faithfully follows the twists and turns of Wilde's extraordinary plot and reveals it to be more modern than it seems. Designed to make a big impact in small spaces this is a grand, ‘Italian-style’ opera with arias, ensembles, a love-duet, and a death scene condensed for just four voices and piano duet.
The performance lasts about 1 hour 40 minutes including interval