Blackheath Halls presented their twelfth community opera production this summer. Maritime Radio’s arts and culture editor went along to find out more.
“Opera is the biggest team sport in the arts, needing everyone from the director, artists, orchestra and those backstage to come together to make something cohesive and exciting; it is the perfect illustration of all that’s important about the word community.” Nicky Spence – Blackheath Halls- Patron
Blackheath Halls twelfth community opera relocated to The Albany Theatre this summer to present a well-received production of Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas. This complex and imaginative production was directed by Polly Graham and ably project managed by Rose Ballantyne, Blackheath Halls Community Engagement Manager. The Musical Director, Lee Reynolds lead a diverse cast and orchestra in a fully staged production which included professional soloists, Baritone, Marcus Farnsworth and Mezzo-Soprano, Idunnu Munch and well over 100 local residents of all ages from across the boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham and vocal students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
This year’s performance was once again a true inter-generational community effort, with children from Greenvale school and Charlton Academy singing alongside a community and professional cast. Some of the community have sung in every Blackheath Halls Community opera since it began. The opera, this year, was once again well supported by Blackheath Halls community orchestra made up of a diverse group of local people.
Rose Ballantyne conjured up this community triumph and has worked tirelessly, alongside others (Nick Jenkins) to achieve this incredible multi-talented annual event. The community members applaud Rose Ballantyne and the overall opera company’s commitment, skill and knowledge, that, year after year, helps to develop the talents of its members.
The community singers, the chorus, some of whom begin without a knowledge of opera, not reading music and having never performed to an audience before, go on to perform before a live, paying, audience and it works well.
This year’s community opera was once again acclaimed in the music press, with the singing of Sofie Calenza, Trinity Laban, second year, opera student highlighted for particular praise and Alun Butler, long standing chorus member, stunning the audience with his first ever solo.
The community begin their work every spring, with a supportive background effort from all concerned to welcome the diverse group of professionals, students, children and local people. Rehearsals take place, costumes are fitted, (April Dalton) the community bonds and finally the audience take their seats.
From the inside, community members, professionals and amateurs alike, reveal the many ways the opera experience has truly helped them, everyone is welcomed, accommodated and developed. Hidden talents nurtured from year to year, friends made, and confidence is built all round.
When the theatre lights are turned off and the make-up wiped away, the company joins together in celebration with a party, flowers and sometimes a poem, (Elizabeth Goodman).
Blackheath Halls Community opera returns to its home next year. Bravo Blackheath Halls, a remarkable performance.
Barbara Ward Arts & Culture editor, for Maritime Radio