Two people from our Marketing and Communications team were recently given the opportunity to visit London to observe rehearsals of English Touring Opera (ETO) before they make their way to Norwich Theatre Royal. We saw rehearsals of Lucrezia Borgia (17 Mar 23) and Il viaggio a Reims (18 Mar 23), leaving the experience speechless and falling in love with opera all over again!
We began our day by witnessing group rehearsals of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, a tragic story following one of history’s most famous poisoners. It explores many topics relevant to today’s society. As Director Eloise Lally explains, “Lucrezia is the only female character in the piece, it’s a world very much dominated by men, so we’re exploring lots of common conversations about the role of women in the production”. Lucrezia, portrayed by the award-winning Paula Sides entrances you with her vocal athleticism.
When standing in an empty rehearsal room with the singers, you realise the power behind their voices. These vocal powerhouses are trained to project their notes over the volume of an orchestra in a full auditorium, so standing opposite them whilst rehearsing was both an extremely special experience but also an incredibly loud one! The unamplified voices add to the thrill of it, feeling the vibrations, making you feel physically connected to the performance.
ETO is also bringing Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims (18 Mar 23) to Theatre Royal. The story is witty with a sharp satirical edge, following the journey of a pampered group travelling to Charles X’s elaborate coronation ceremony, touching upon themes of obsession with celebrity and society’s yearning to be close to the elite. Having been composed originally as a present for King Charles X’s coronation, a showcase for the finest voices of the time, this opera has clear relevance to 2023!
I must admit that the idea of a comedic opera had me sceptical, with the idea of humour only understood by the elite. However, I was proven wrong. Il viaggio a Reims was full of physical comedy and utilised the vocal range to produce humorous scenes. The production features 18 named characters, which is one of the largest ensemble groups English Touring Opera has dealt with!
Both Lucrezia Borgia and Il viaggio a Reims are accompanied by the Old Street Band, who perform on original instruments (or exact replicas) from the time of the music, in this case the renaissance. This adds a level of authenticity to the performances and is paired with the lavish period costumes. It feels as if you have been transported in time.
We also look forward to also welcoming The Wish Gatherer to Norwich Theatre Stage Two on 29 May 23, English Touring Opera’s production for younger audience members. The show is only 45 minutes in length and sung in English. It follows the life of Lola, a young girl struggling with the effects on her world after COVID, her parent’s recent divorce and the climate crisis.
Overall, our experience was phenomenal. Seeing live opera is unmatched. The vocal power of the singers and music provided by the Old Street Band creates an utterly immersive and authentic environment, sending vibrations of the music through your body like a rush of adrenaline. Il viaggio a Reims is at Theatre Royal on 18 Mar 23 and is the perfect light-hearted story for those not familiar with opera and wanting a relaxed evening out. Why not celebrate Charles III’s coronation early with this comic piece? Lucrezia Borgia is a powerful political tragedy, perfect for the fans of Glyndebourne who are missing their usual opera fix. It’s poison. It’s vengeance. It’s Italian Renaissance. What’s not to love?