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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 11:13 GMT
Impresario plans 'accessible' opera
Theatre audience
The Savoy Opera believes there are enough opera-lovers to go around
Theatre impresario Raymond Gubbay is attempting to open up opera to a more mainstream audience with a company offering cut price tickets.

The Savoy Opera company, based at London's Savoy Theatre, will stage popular operas such as Carmen and the Marriage of Figaro, beginning in April.

The aim is to not to compete with the capital's two big opera companies, but to offer a cheaper alternative.

Top ticket prices will be 50, compared to 170 at the Royal Opera House.

Mr Gubbay is working with co-producer Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, president of the Society of London Theatre, to launch the venture.

The Savoy Theatre, on the Strand, has 1,100 seats, roughly half that of the nearby Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Appetite

Sir Stephen told BBC One's Breakfast programme: "There is a huge appetite for opera which you can see by the number of people who go to my partner Raymond Gubbay's spectaculars, 50,000 in a couple of weeks.

"You can also see it in the sales of CDs, even the number of people who listen to Classic FM."

Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen
Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen is president of Society of London Theatre

The National Theatre has achieved success by offering tickets for 10 to its performances, attracting a younger audience often prohibited from attending by high prices.

Sir Stephen said: "It would be lovely if it was 10-a-head but it does involve outside sponsorship paying the difference between the 10 and the 'real price'.

"We feel that at less than 50 a head, which is not very different to what you pay to go to a football match, it really is in the reach of anybody who actually wants to come."

Mr Gubbay said that the higher prices also compared to that of West End musicals, while some will set at 10.

Young performers

Although there are already two opera companies operating in London - the Royal Opera Company and the English National Opera - Savoy Opera believes there are enough audiences to go round.

"We think we are going to expand the market," said Sir Stephen.

"We do not see ourselves as competition, we see ourselves as creating a bigger market place.

To bring down costs of staging full operas, the Savoy expects to use younger, home-grown performers, whose voices will be more suited to the smaller venue.

And there will be no baffling audiences with obscure operas, with a more popular selection chosen for the first season.

"We would like people to come knowing the tunes, looking forward to the emotional rollercoaster that a good opera should be, and enjoying themselves," said Sir Stephen.

"We are not setting out to challenge them musically."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Opera producer Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen
"We're setting out to give everyone a really good time"



SEE ALSO:
Plan for third London opera house
10 Sep 03  |  Entertainment
Impresario blasts 'absurd' opera cuts
29 Jan 03  |  Entertainment


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