A Passion For Opera

Episodes

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01Tom Sutcliffe2010053120110725

Tom Sutcliffe has a long pedigree when it comes to opera.

He was hooked at the age of four.

It's given him plenty of time to fathom what it is that makes this theatrical form impinge so powerfully.

He argues that while it might seem grand, flamboyant, passionate and overtly emotional, when you look more closely it's the intimacy of it that counts.

The aria, and Tom believes these are at its core, is a confessional form.

It might be launched into a huge auditorium with gut-busting zeal and massive vocal projection, but what it does is to open the character's emotions up to the audience by way of the music.

The music, the singing, is everything, and it's why the aria, which Tom believes is opera's version of the cinematic close-up, is so important.

There are plenty of other elements that contribute.

Relevance in setting and substance can be too slavishly observed but they matter as well.

Laced with his recollections of the good and the bad in his many years as a critic, Tom makes the case for opera by going beyond the usual cliche's and enthusiasms for grandeur and beauty.

Critic Tom Sutcliffe argues that opera's intimacy lies at the core of its effectiveness.

has a long pedigree when it comes to opera.

02Matt Peacock2010060120110726

is the originator of Streetwise, the community opera project for the homeless set up in 2002.

A classically trained singer, he reflects on the way opera has changed the lives of people he's met during the past ten years.

Whilst Matt certainly doesn't claim that Streetwise has solved the problems of homelessness, he speaks with passion about how opera is for everyone.

He argues that the teamwork necessary in opera is a perfect way of engaging the 600 homeless people around the UK who undertake the weekly opera projects.

If you can't sing a solo, you can join in the chorus.

If you don't want to sing, you can make props or help with costumes.

The massive scale of an opera means that, for his team, there's a role for everyone and a reason to turn up every week.

Over the years, his opera company have received warm reviews for their performances.

And the somewhat surprising success of using opera as a means of support and rehabilitation of homeless people is now being tried in other countries.

Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Matt Peacock reflects on how opera can transform the lives of homeless people.

03Robert Thicknesse2010060220110727

still sees and writes about opera and he still believes that at its heart there is an argument that can be made for it as an artform.

However the old love which he lavished on it in his youth and as a young critic has gone.

He talks about the demons that have nagged at him over the years, the sheer opulence of the operatic world, the claims of broad appeal which he believes are false, the disproportionate funding, the excuses for modernity and above all the festival audiences who are there unashamedly for the event rather than the performance.

Is this really the greatest of all the artforms? Isn't it more honest to admit that it's a pastime of the rich and, other than a flirtation with mass appeal in 19th century Italy, that's how it has always been?

But Robert also tries to explain why he keeps coming back to opera, given that it isn't to be seen in all the right places and to be seen, most importantly, to be rich.

Critic Robert Thicknesse explains why he has fallen out of love with opera.

04Ashutosh Khandekar2010060320110728

- Editor of Opera Now magazine - recounts his entry into the opera world via student opera.

Ash realised he was never good enough to be a professional opera singer, but it didn't stop him taking part as student.

Born in Bombay, he discovered opera whilst a student at Oxford, fell in love with it and the seed was sown.

He's spent the past 15 years watching practically every new production not only in this continent but around the globe including places where you would least expect to find opera, such as Hanoi, Istanbul and Ulan Bator.

Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Ashutosh Khandekar recounts his entry into the opera world through student opera.

05 LASTMichael Chance2010060420110729

Counter Tenor Michael Chance is one of Britain's great opera stars.

But it's an unofficial title that has come at a cost.

While Germany is full of opera houses with permanent ensembles where singers can get to know each other and work together on a series of different productions, Michael is a permanent guest.

He's had to get used to living out of a suitcase, settling in to a lodging house or hotel room for a month and bonding with a new cast, a new director and new conductor, only to be off and away the moment the production is up and running.

These are the confessions of the long distance opera singer.

The benefits have been a chance to see the world's stages and work with some of the greats.

The down-side is that the whole business of teamwork, of developing together, of celebrating together is very limited.

And of course there's the family.

The pull between work and home is constant and doesn't get any easier over time.

Countertenor Michael Chance describes the challenge of being an opera singer on the road.