Based in Calne in Wiltshire, Alec Deighton joined Bath Opera in 2015 and is the company’s new Chairman. We asked Alec a few questions about his new role and vision for this innovative opera company.
What first attracted you to Bath Opera?
My younger daughter Julia O’Connor was cast as Ellen Orford in Bath Opera’s 2015 production of Peter Grimes. Being a long time Britten fan she suggested that I join her by singing in the Chorus for that production. Although I was experienced singing in high quality choirs – and on occasion as a soloist – the added dimension of the acting and action were irresistible, and so decided to stay.
Who else in Wiltshire is involved with Bath Opera?
There are a number of Wiltshire people in Bath Opera living in or near Bradford on Avon, Corsham, Swindon, Salisbury, Trowbridge, Westbury. As we have such a strong following in this area it would be great to collaborate with a theatre in this area to include in our regional tour this summer.
Now you have taken over the role of Chairman, what is your vision for Bath Opera?
As a Charity, any money that Bath Opera spends on its productions has to be recouped through ticket sales and Member’s subscriptions. With this in mind, I am always looking to grow our audience base by providing the environment in which our profile can develop. The quality of our productions is the only standard by which we can be measured by our supporters and audience so the continuous improvements in our productions and singers as well as in business matters such as publicity and accessibility are essential.
How can we attract bigger and younger audiences for Opera in this region?
Many will be surprised to learn that more people actually attend opera than football matches – despite opera having a reputation for dense impenetrable plots combined with inaccessible music. Clearly this is wrong! Bath Opera always sing in English, and from 2019 we will have sur-titles to make it even easier for our audiences to follow the dialogue. Our publicity strategy is also designed to help potential audiences realise that opera can be enthralling and fun.
Sometimes opera plots can be riveting family dramas such as with our 2018 production of Janacek’s Jenufa, but they can also be light-hearted comedies such as with Berlioz’s take on Much Ado About Nothing in Beatrice and Benedict (pictured playing Leonato in 2017).
Comedy is also at the heart of our current production of Bellini’s La Sonnambula (the Sleepwalker).
We always try to attract young people to our productions and offer discounted seats for students. As part of last summer’s tour we designed a schools introduction to opera for one venue. Unfortunately (and rather ironically), the school withdrew due to an imminent Ofsted inspection! This year’s summer tour will incorporate ten performances of Mozart’s delightful comedy Cosi Fan Tutte with an opportunity to perform to school parties in new areas outside of Bath.
What can we expect from Bath Opera in 2019?
As usual, this year’s schedule will include two operas. Our main production, La Sonnambula will be performed with full orchestra at Bath’s superb Roper Theatre on 21-23 February. This delightful comedy full of beautiful music concerns a young lady who sleepwalks into the wrong person’s bed with unexpected and significant results!
Our summer tour will see a production of Mozart’s hilarious Cosi Fan Tutte in which two young men go to enormous antics to test the faithfulness of their lady friends. Full details will soon be posted on our bright new website.
We have auditioned and appointed some excellent and experienced principals for both productions. Whether you are a seasoned opera goer or have never been to an opera before you can be sure of a really good night out, superb quality entertainment and a very warm welcome. I know that everyone at Bath Opera will look forward to seeing our audiences – old and new – at our exciting forthcoming productions in 2019.
LA SONNAMBULA (The Sleepwalker)
21 – 23 February 2019 7:30pm
Roper Theatre, Upper Oldfield Park, Bath BA2 3LA