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nelly miricioiu- kirk   opera zangeres

Masterclass With Nelly Miricioiu – Sat 19 Sept 2pm

Saturday 19th September 2pm.

We are proud and lucky to announce that the internationally renowned artist, Nelly Miricioiu, has kindly offered to hold a Masterclass as a lead up to the Clapham Opera Festival.

After a wonderful meeting with the Festival founder Marie Soulier, Signora Miricioiu offered to run a Masterclass in front of a small audience (70 people).

As Signora Miricioiu stated:

“I want to pass my legacy to the future generation, and the idea of a young festival is brilliant”

A few lucky singers will be coached by the great Diva on Saturday 19th September at 2pm. Doors will open at 13:20. It will be a rare chance to see one of the greats in action.

You will discover how a sparkling career on the stages of La Scala, the Met and Royal Opera House opposite the likes of Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Roberto Alanya, has been maintained through hard work, passion and an ability to commit to the music fully with mind, body and soul.

The three singers will be appearing at the Festival, so Festival goers will also be able to witness first hand their development as artists.

We do advise to book early, as this event will sell out.

Tickets available here

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Grand Opening – An Evening of Grand Opera 9th Oct 7:30pm

Friday 9th October 7:30pm. Doors open at 6:50pm

We have a wonderful evening to open our International Festival. We start with a celebration of the Grand Arias of Opera.

What will be chosen? Bellini or Gounod? Mozart or Verdi? What is certain, we will transport you back to the time of Grand Opera.

We are lucky to welcome back Festival favourites Sophie Yelland (Mezzo Soprano) & Ricardo Panela (Baritone). Joining them for the first time at the Festival is the wonderful Mari Wyn Williams (Soprano)

Tickets available here

Doors Open 6:50pm.

Drinks available before and after the concert

White Nights St Petersburg

White Nights (Russia & Central Europe) Fri 23 Oct 7:30pm

White Nights – Friday 23rd October 7:30pm. Doors open 6:50pm

Dostoevsky’s short story White Nights, set in St. Petersburg, begins with a quotation from the poem “The Flower” by Ivan Turgenev:

“And was it his destined part / Only one moment in his life / To be close to your heart? / Or was he fated from the start / to live for just one fleeting instant, / within the purlieus of your heart.”

And so a story of hope, hidden emotions, unrequited love and heartbreak unfolds. It is astonishing that with such a storyline, an opera hasn’t already been written for it.

We are doing the second best thing. Inspired by the story, we will bring together some incredible pieces of music from Russia, as well as Central and Eastern Europe.

Playing a selection of music from the likes of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov and Balakirev, we have Raya Kostova on piano, and baritone Thomas Humphreys.

Tickets available here



La Bohème – Fri 20th Nov 7.30pm & Sun 22nd Nov 4.30pm

La Bohème – Fri 20th Nov 7.30pm & Sun 22nd Nov 4.30pm. Doors open 45 minutes before.

Our finale for this year’s Festival will be Puccini’s much loved La Boheme. Since first performed in 1896, this romantic opera has enchanted many, with it’s story of Rudolfo and Mimi.

Inspired by Henri Murger’s novel Scènes de la vie de bohème  and play Le vie de la bohème, Puccini set the opera in 1840s Paris. Marie Soulier will yet again put her spin on the Opera – how can one forget last year’s Cenerentola which she set in the Wild West?

We are fortunate to have the talents of Nina Brazier as our Stage Director  and Philip Voldman, Pianist and Music Director for this Opera.

On stage will be Ricardo Panela (Baritone), Alice Privett (Soprano), Katherine Blumenthal (Soprano), Nick Dwyer, Alberto Sousa (Tenor) & Simon Grange (Bass)

Be sure to book your tickets early. You can do so right here

Doors Open 45 mins prior to the performance

Angelica Catalani

A Celebration of the Diva/Divo

The Diva/Divo of Opera brings drama, electricity and incredible artistry to this wonderful art form. Yet I find myself asking: What is a Diva/Divo?

The definition seems to shift from the sublime to the caricature.

So I headed to Italy. Diva: a female deity. Divo: a male deity. The source is the latin Divus: a “deified mortal”.

So do we transform a great opera singer into a person who becomes divine in our eyes?

In recent times, we have shifted to a more negative interpretation, where the Diva is overly dramatic, spoilt and petulant, and believes everyone is beneath her.

Note the female form.

Why not Divo? Are men not also petulant, spoilt or selfish? There is sexism at play in modern day language.

Secondly, the negative connotation has fundamentally distorted the initial use of the word within Opera.

I then came across a fantastic article written by Fred Plotkin, who stated that we often confuse Diva with Prima Donna:

“In opera, a diva is that rare female singer whose talents, gifts and essence combine in special ways to transport the listener to sublime emotional states. The prima donna is usually an artist of abundant gifts, and she knows it. She gets the prime dressing room, the top salary and expects that sort of cosseting that goes with being the star.”

Fred Plotkin (source: WQXR)

There are no better examples of the opera singer having near god-like status, than the 18th Century castrati. Farinelli, Senesino, Paccierotti, Cafarelli and other castrati dazzled their audiences with emotional performances (and with their outfits). They were the celebrities of their day. Adored by many female fans, they commanded high fees and amassed extreme wealth. At one performance, one titled lady was so carried away that she famously exclaimed: “One God, one Farinelli!”.

Then we have the great tenors of Opera, from Enrico Caruso & Beniamino Gigli to Luciano Pavarotti. Caruso was a fascinating man who redefined the role of the tenor. The combination of his emotionally charged performances and his recordings meant that more people heard him than any man in history by the time he died in 1922.

And then we come to the the great Divas of operatic history: Angelica Catalani (pictured above), Guiditta Pasta, Renata Tebaldi, Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Kirsten Flagstad amongst others.

Callas once compared her great rival Tebaldi to herself as “Coca Cola to Champagne”. However, the two camps of passionate fans fanned most of the flames, not the Divas themselves. Tebaldi, once called the “Goddess of Song”, was renowned to be strong willed. One opera manager commented:

“She has dimples of iron”.

Divas/Divos are not immune to also being Prima Donnas too. Many successful castrati would demand that composers rewrite scores. Yet it is time for us to return to the true meaning of Diva/Divo. It is time to separate the Diva/Divo from the negative modern interpretation and celebrate their ability to transport us through a glorious sensory experience whenever they sing.

Let us celebrate the Diva /Divo.

© Paul Bay


In Praise of Music Teachers & Vocal Coaches

Upon the Shoulders of Teachers

It is to this illustrious Spanish artist, with a moved, devoted, and grateful heart, that I owe all my preparation and my artistic formation as an actress and musician. This elect woman, who, besides giving me her precious teaching, gave me her whole heart as well…

So said Maria Callas of the coloratura soprano Elvira de Hidalgo, her vocal teacher at the Athens Conservatoire. Such expression of gratitude and respect is common throughout the history of opera and music generally.

Here at our Festival our artists often talk of the respect they have for their music teachers and voice coaches. One such teacher is the tenor Dennis O Neill (Wales International Academy of Voice; Visiting Professor of Singing at the Royal Academy of Music). He gives so much to help bring out the best in others.

The wonderful Laura Sarti (mezzo-soprano) has been a professor and Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama since the 1970s, and has gained a formidable reputation in the world of Bel Canto. We were lucky to have her attend our Grand Opening. A number of artists performing at the Festival have been tutored by her and admire her greatly.

And as Laura Sarti said to Marie Soulier, the respect is mutual:

They are not only gifted and dedicated singers, but artists aware of the debt they owe great composers.

Recently, Marie and I met some wonderful music teachers and vocal coaches, including Dinah Harris (Royal College of Music), along with Neil Mackie and Kathleen Livingstone (Royal Academy of Music). It was evident that these teachers have an immense sense of pride for their pupils. They give emotional and practical support to their pupils, preparing them for a future in music.

Behind many great composers and singers, a teacher stood. Florian Gassmann paid for the musical education of a young Antonio Salieri and tutored him himself. Such was the impact on Salieri, that for all but the wealthiest of his pupils (including Beethoven, Liszt and Schubert) he gave his lessons for free.

As it was for Gassmann, Salieri and de Hidalgo, so it is with O Neill, Sarti, Harris, Mackie, Livingstone and all the other wonderful music teachers and voice coaches of today. They give their talent to help others shine. The artists performing at the Festival will be the beacons for the next generation.

To the music teachers and voice coaches of the past, present and future, we thank you.
© Paul Bay