OperaUpClose is an ambitious, Olivier Award-winning opera company, producing innovatively staged, unintimidating, affordable and - crucially - high quality English chamber re-imaginings of well-known works and premieres of new operas. We are an associate artist at The Old Church, an associate company of Soho Theatre and co-produce with the Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Tricycle Theatre, Kings Place and Malmö Opera (Sweden). We tour across the UK as well as some international engagements.
Since being founded in 2009 OperaUpClose has produced twenty-eight operas: six world premieres of contemporary operas and twenty-two classic operas in newly commissioned chamber orchestrations and English librettos. For a list of all of our previous productions please see our PAST PRODUCTIONS page. Our production of La Bohème won the 2011 Olivier Award for Best Opera Production and the WhatsOnStage.com Award for Best Off-West End production; and our world premiere of The Blank Canvas won the 2015 Off West End Award for Best Opera.
We have a strong track record at reaching new audiences to opera: over a six-week run of La Bohème at Soho Theatre, 51% of the audience had never been to an opera before; at our performance of The Marriage of Figaro at G Live in Guildford, 31% of the audience were attending their first opera.
Between 2010 and 2015 OperaUpClose was the resident company at the King’s Head Theatre, managing all operations and programming of the venue. We began regularly touring our productions to mid-scale venues across England in 2013. In 2014 we began operating as a charity. In 2015 we ended our residency at the King’s Head Theatre in order to develop our touring; education and participation programmes; and to create more ambitious and innovative productions than a residency in one small theatre allowed. That year we toured to 35 theatres and festivals, with four different productions, and opened three new productions in London. Since 2014 OperaUpClose performances account for circa 12% of the UK's total opera performances.
We feel passionately about producing contemporary opera as well as new versions of the classics, so in Autumn 2012 we launched Flourish, a competition to a discover a new chamber opera. We fund and produce the winning opera of each year’s competition. For more information please visit our FLOURISH page.
In 2016 we created our first education and participation programme. Partnering with Theatre in Education company, Big Wheel. We created a series of workshops that toured with our children’s opera for 7-11-year-olds, Ulla’s Odyssey. The workshops explore what an opera is, how they are performed etc, in order to give children from as young as seven the tools and confidence to enjoy opera for the rest of their lives. 82% of Ulla's Odyssey audiences at Kings Place were seeing their first opera and a staggering 92% of that group told us that they will now definitely see another opera in the future. Due to the success of the creative learning platform and insight into the value of engaging young people, we recently involved 36 young people (aged 18-25) from Soho Theatre’s Young Company in R&D for The Magic Flute.
We are committed to providing experience to early-career singers. We have helped to develop the careers of singers who have gone on to sing principle roles for ROH, ENO, Scottish Opera, Glyndebourne and BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. We also run two training schemes, for early-career directors and producers. Graduates of these schemes, who began their careers with OperaUpClose, have gone on to roles with organisations including The Royal Opera House, National Theatre, RSC, Donmar Warehouse and Opera Holland Park.
OperaUpClose is led by Artistic Director Robin Norton-Hale and managed by a team of gifted artists, talented producers, eagle-eyed administrators and an engaged and hugely experienced board. For more information on the people that manage OperaUpClose please see our PEOPLE page.
The majority of OperaUpClose’s funding comes from the box office (60%). This funding is supported by grants from a variety of Trust and Foundations, and we often receive project funding for our shows from Arts Council England. We also receive a great number of generous donations from private individuals, via our supporters scheme, for which we are incredibly grateful. If you’d like to learn more about how you can support our work, please visit our SUPPORT US page.
OperaUpClose are leading an artistic revolution Sunday Times, 2009
A huge artistic success New York Times, 2010
London is awash with pop-up opera, OperaUpClose is the brand-leader Evening Standard, 2013
A little gem The Telegraph, 2013
Striking music theatre of considerable integrity and force Guardian, 2014
Since 2009 London’s operatic life has been enriched by OperaUpClose Evening Standard, 2014
Makes a powerfully direct impact no opera house can match The Stage, 2014
This was the night OperaUpClose came of age WhatsOnStage, 2016
Venues at which OperaUpClose performs include those below. To find out where we’re performing next, please see our CALENDAR page:
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Brew House, Taunton
Britten Theatre, Holt
Byre in the Botanics Festival, St Andrews
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
G Live, Guildford
Georgian Theatre Royal
Halesworth Arts Festival
Hawth Theatre, Crawley
Hazlitt Arts Centre
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Mill Hill Festival
Mumford Theatre Cambridge
New Wolsey, Ipswich
Northern Aldborough Festival
Oldham Coliseum Theatre
Oxford North Wall
Redbridge Drama Centre
Salisbury International Arts Festival
South Hill Park Arts Centre
Square Chapel, Halifax
Stables, Milton Keynes
Stamford Arts Centre
Stroud Arts Festival
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Theatre Royal Margate
Theatre Royal Winchester
Theatre Royal Windsor
Theatre Severn Shrewsbury
Tobacco Factory, Bristol
Vault Festival Waterloo
Critical praise for OperaUpClose’s work over the years includes the below and you can find more at our PRESS page:
Eugene Onegin (2017)
★★★★ The Times
★★★★ The Stage
★★★★ Reviews Hub
★★★★ Plays To See
★★★★ Theater Bubble
★★★★ Evening Standard
★★★★ Time Out
★★★★ City AM
★★★★ Sunday Express
★★★★ The Stage
La Bohème (2009)
★★★★ Evening Standard
★★★★ Sunday Express
★★★★ Daily Express
As for what our audiences say, here’s a few highlights:
- Everyone was so committed, the music is so beautiful, and the performances were just incredible 2017
- Amazing, intense performance - stunned moment of silence from the audience at the end 2016
- Only the 2nd opera I've ever seen, but OperaUpClose's Carmen was f'ing baller, yo. Carmen is a bamf 2016
- Just got home from Carmen. Magnificent singing, superb playing. A night to remember 2016
- We love what you do making opera accessible to people who normally would not be able to afford it 2015
- I kind of felt as though I got the point of opera for the first time 2015
- Loved it so did my 17 year old daughter 2015
- Operas are awesome! (7 year old on seeing their first opera) 2015
- First time I've really understood the plot 2015
- I think this is the best introduction one could ever have to opera: direct, immediate and involving. 2015
- Loved it! And my non-opera loving partner enjoyed it too which is an achievement! 2014
- This was the first opera I have ever seen and it was BRILLIANT! 2014
- This is how opera should be...quality singing and music and lively productions at a price I can afford, with no pomposity. 2014
- We love your work: brilliant scores, brilliant singing and acting, humour, inventiveness, fun. We always come away feeling elated. Thank you. 2014
The need for our work
Despite years of work by excellent organisations, opera is still seen as elitist, expensive and exclusive. DCMS figures from 2013/14 show only 3.9% of adults in England attended an opera. Meanwhile national music education funding in 2014-15 has fallen to 70% of its 2010-11 level, from £82.5m to £58m, and local government cuts are further squeezing the extent of free and subsidised music education which schools and local authorities are able to provide. This is already having a profound impact: participation in music activities fell from 55% in 2009 to 37% in 2013/14. The Warwick Commission’s report on cultural value concluded that, “There are barriers and inequalities in Britain today that prevent [equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life] from being a universal human right. This is bad for business and bad for society.”
People from lower socio-economic groups are less likely to engage with the arts in any form (67% from lower socio-economic groups compared to 85% from upper socio-economic groups) and opera in particular (ACE ‘Taking Part’ 2012/13). The factors preventing engagement include lack of awareness, lack of geographical provision and cost. Our work addresses all three of these factors.
Lack of awareness:
By working with theatres’ marketing, outreach, and education departments with established community links; with schools, youth groups and local businesses we communicate clear and strong messages about the type of opera that we offer, overcoming preconceptions of the artform.
There is a distinct lack of opera provision in the majority of local performing arts venues, which is a hugely significant contributing factor to DCMS’ figures that only 3.9% of adults attend opera. Without local opera provision, most people can’t see opera – no conclusions can be drawn about whether there is a desire for a local opera offer without addressing this issue. Supplying high quality opera to audiences across the UK, not only London audiences is key concern for OperaUpClose. We tour to the North, South, East and West and in 2016 made our debuts Scotland and Wales…watch out Ireland, we’re coming for you!
Our standard ticket prices range from £10-£35 (with the upper limit £25 at many theatres). An allocation of (good, stalls or circle) £10 tickets is made available to the unemployed, students and those under 26 and over 65, and we make sure that tickets to our production are regularly donated to charities local to the theatre, who distribute them to those who would not ordinarily attend, or be able to afford to buy tickets for, an opera. Partner charities have included Arts Emergency, local NHS Trusts, Age UK, Single Homeless People and the Rainbow Trust.