The idea of Clapham Opera Festival started in Marie Soulier’s living room where she invited a soprano and pianist to perform in front of 30 people. After 16 ‘house gigs’ Soulier introduced the festival last year to promote young opera talent and opera to wider audiences including curious opera newbies and children.
Off the back of last year’s festival and with the success of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Clapham Opera Festival have been going from strength to strength; this ties in nicely with their courageous motto, the great composers wrote opera for everyone not for the few.
With no grants but massive support from the local businesses and community, they managed to attract 725 people and over 120 children to their festival in 2013. Commercial and Marketing manager Paul Bay said that this stemmed from Clapham Opera Festival’s sheer ‘effort, energy, ideas and a wonderful group of people trying to create something fresh and captivating.”
To close this year’s festival they showcased Rossini’s La Cenerentola based on the adaptation of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale Cendrillon, or the folk tale Cinderella, as we may know it.
Soulier added a Clapham twist with her concept for the production and had artistic director Pedro Ribeiro, who supported Jonathan Kent’s production of Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, to ‘[sprinkle] his magic to the stage’.
The staging is based on the Old Wild West with North-American art, sculptures and clothing to set the scene of our beautiful tale of love and comedy.
Philip Voldman joined the Clapham Opera Festival for a second year as musical director and embodied the spirit of Rossini’s work through his ability to bring briskness and vitality through the piano keys.
To add to the sensory experience, which Clapham Opera Festival is committed to, they have Olfactory Advisor James Craven to recommend Angelina (our Cinderella) cook omelettes for her wicked sisters Tisbe (Chloe de Backer) and Clorinda (Christina Petrou).
In the generous space of the Church of the Holy Spirit, our opera singers sung with gusto and enjoyment. They were dressed in American Western costume (all recycled clothes from extensive family wardrobes) and were ready to do all the line dancing necessary. With frames and simple scene changes through a couple of landscape paintings they managed to change the setting; yet it was their talented voices that were unrivalling and mesmerising.
Gigho has an addicted mezzo voice that is uniquely her own. Her vulnerability shone through and through in the show that deeply contrasted with her evil stepfather who was sung by deep, baritone Mark Beesley. With Petrou’s puppy eyes and de Backer’s bratty ways, they both played the ideal horrible sisters, but with beautiful vocal timbres.
Nicholas Merryweather had a stoic philosophical manner; yet his honest vocals agilities were masterful and Authur Swan sung lavishly as a romantic prince much like an Octavio in Don Giovanni. And Richardo Panela as Dandini did an excellent job keeping up the comedic pretence of the Prince’s ploy and singing with flair and joviality as well.
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