The award-winning company OperaUpClose, pioneer of London’s pub opera movement, is to leave the King’s Head Theatre in Islington in January 2015. The company has called this intimate theatre home for the past four years, and made a name for itself by squeezing classical opera onto the tiny stage at the back of the pub: compromises are made on cast numbers, but rarely when it comes to emotional impact.
The move has been prompted by the desire to ‘pursue new creative avenues and partnerships, and to further develop their touring output’. Headed by artistic director Robin Norton-Hale and executive producer Dominic Haddock, the company will continue to be an associate company of Soho Theatre (where performances of Norton-Hale’s glittering 1920s La Traviata have just drawn to a close) and will further develop its relationship with the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry.
The King’s Head will continue to be a hub of fringe theatre activity in North London, with Adam Spreadbury-Maher staying on as the venue’s artistic director.
Further touring plans for OperaUpClose in 2015 include a new cabaret-chamber opera Unborn in America by Luke Styles (currently Young Composer in Residence at Glyndebourne) at the Shunt Vaults in Waterloo. Thirty-six venues are confirmed for various revivals of their best sellers for the first half of 2015.
A new version of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro opened this week at the King’s Head and continues until 8 November, before OperaUpClose whips out three of its best-loved productions for limited runs this Christmas: The Elixir of Love (2-13 December), La Bohème (16 December – 3 January) and The Barber of Seville (6-17 January 2015). After that, the company takes flight.
Says Norton-Hale, “Our residency at the King’s Head Theatre has enabled us to test the boundaries of what can be achieved in a pub theatre, from on-stage swimming pools, motorbikes and a hanging to using the bar area for performances. It’s been a supportive and characterful environment in which to work and we have learned a huge amount in the process. We are all very excited about the future”.
Picture: OperaUpClose’s L’Elisir d’amore. © Christopher Tribble