Wednesday, July 6

A Night at the Opera – St Mary’s Church Eastham

Just over three years ago a friend asked a favour of me to review a young company performing an English libretto version of Così fan tutte in the backroom of a pub in Liverpool: it proved to be one of the best things I ever did as it introduced me to Flat Pack Music.

Having had the pleasure of watching many of their productions since, and with the challenges and travails of a pandemic almost out of the way, it was a delight to see their return with A Night at the Opera at St Mary’s Church in Eastham, where it all began for them four years ago.

Four professional soloists – Soprano Sarah Helsby Hughes, Soprano Heather Buckmaster, Tenor Joseph Buckmaster and Baritone Peter Lidbetter – were joined by Accompanist Jonathan Ellis to serve up some of operas most famous works as they performed a selection of arias, duets, and quartets.

Mark Rawlinson – who delivers a good tune in his own right – was the perfect compère for the evening as he provided the context for the various pieces, most of which were performed in their original libretto, so that the audience could sit back and enjoy the drama and intrigue as we encountered love and passion, cheek and humour, and of course the raw emotion of an unfolding tragedy.

Our opening half sampled some favourites from Verdi’s La Traviata and Rigoletto; Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni; and introduced me to Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and L’elisir d’amore.

The second half burst into life with renditions from Bizet’s Carmen, followed by Puccini’s Tosca and La Bohème which was broken up by another new piece for me, Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress, before Heather Buckmaster provided a new definition of ‘Love is…’ with her admiring glances at husband Joseph during his rousing rendition of Nessun Dorma which served as an encore to a wonderful evening.

Opera is so much more than just singing; it is a full performance that an audience feel and experience and demands much from its performers. As one of them confided to me in the interval, the lack of live performance during the pandemic has left them shattered during the rehearsal process as they picked up the pieces again.

You wouldn’t have guessed that tonight though as each excelled with powerful, assured, and engaging solos filled with emotion and good humour. Their quartet performances were an immersive treat, with much credit to the talented Jonathan Ellis whose sensitive and subtle accompaniment allowed the voices to shine at every turn. All in all, it was an enjoyable and much needed shot in the arm as live performance takes off again.

Founded in 2017, Flat Pack Music make opera and classical music more accessible to the public with low ticket prices, familiar settings, and English libretto for their operas to engage audiences young and old. They also focus on giving young performers professional experience through roles, concerts, and a now annual competition. Further details www.flatpackmusic.co.uk

A Night at the Opera next performs on Saturday 28th August at 7.30pm at Frodsham Community Centre. Tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-night-at-the-opera-frodsham-tickets-155711373911

A further production of A Night at the Opera performs on Saturday 9th October at 7,30pm at Melrose Hall, Hoylake as part of the Wirral Arts Festival. Tickets available at A Night at the Opera – Hoylake (Wirral Arts Festival) Tickets, Sat 9th Oct 2021 at 19:30 | Eventbrite

Also, as part of the Wirral Arts Festival, Heather and Joseph will be appearing with Orchestra dell’Arte at Heswall Hall on Saturday 16th October at 7.30pm, further details Wirral Arts Festival (dellarte.co.uk)

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 21st August 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

0Shares