OFFER OF OPERA FOR ALL by Norman Warwick

According to The Mail On Sunday (11th August 2019) millions of us now listen in to podcasts. So well developed, now, is the podcast industry that the newspaper, in an article by Rob Waugh, included several pages discussing the current 100 podcasts most listened to. These specialist podcasts cover not only comedy, literature, film, tv, cookery, and other favourite pastimes but also, to my surprise, several niche subjects. There in the music section, just three places below The Story Of The Clash stands the Barbican Podcast. Focussed on classical composers, the podcast is presented by Edward Sackerson, who is frequently joined by conductors to explore some of our greatest classical music.

Sandwiched between those two apparent extremes of The Clash and the classical, to may absolute amazement, stands Aria Code, which actually caught my eye because I love a good, or bad, pun. Aria Code does what it says on the tin and explores opera´s most famous arias. This podcast is actually put together by musicians who pull apart one moment from an opera in a forensic examination of how and why that aria works in operatic compositions such as Rigoletto and The Magic Flute.

Whilst opera might be thought by some of us as evidence that podcast productions are aimed at a niche subject matter, the podcast is widely listened to. This is partly because, like all good podcasts, it centres around experts talking passionately about their subject, but it also demonstrates that opera has a large enough audience base to sustain such productions.

And I have to say that I am relieved to hear that, because all across the arts recently received an enquiry from a major UK opera company with more than 150 productions behind them.

They have asked us to explore the feasibility of a number of their performers and technicians etc coming over to Lanzarote for a week to engage with local schools, music academies and musicians to deliver a series light-hearted talks, lectures, workshops and performances of The Pirates Of Penzance in conjunction with local Lanzaroteans.

It sounds a great idea, (and it is, of course), but like so many good ideas the logistics of it are frightening

However, very informal and low key enquiries already been conducted on the island by all across the artshave already drawn a handful of positive responses. We have received expressions of interest from two female singers who perform in the same choir on Lanzarote. One has several years´ experience on the amateur dramatics scene in both the UK and since retiring here to the island, whilst the other has also performed in several fully staged and concert performances over the years in venues as diverse as village halls and suburban theatres such as The Theatre Royal in Bury St, Edmunds. This lady has also served on several influential committees in the performing arts sector. We have also had an expression of interest from a gentleman who now lives for lengthy periods each year on Lanzarote, with many years´ experience in the UK as a repetiteur (rehearsal pianist) and accompanist, on music including “Pirates of Penzance.”

Many people have asked to be kept informed of developments, but the most exciting step forward so far has been made by these three experienced artists, who also took the trouble to respond constructively to some of the points all across the arts raised in our published articles and informal opening discussion.

For instance, we have asked that opera company concerned to perhaps consider staging all performances indoors as The Pirates Of Penzance might not be suitable for outside performances here, because of the difficulties that might be presented, by the wind and heat of the island, to acoustics and audience comfort.

An inter-island tour of The Canary Islands, (as was mooted) would probably prove impractical as flights or ferries of cast and equipment would probably be prohibitive as far as likely funders or sponsors are concerned. However, it is felt that two or three suitable venues might be found on Lanzarote which might be offered free of charge. Selecting a performance point in the South, Centre and North of the island would place about thirty kilometres between each of the sites and allow an audience hinterland for each performance.

Although there might be some overheads in the acquisition or creation, the gathering of sufficient of these items should not present a problem.

The original proposed month of touring was originally September 2020 but our advisory panel of experts pointed out that some towns that might play an important part in delivering the project have highly important times on their own cultural agenda around that time of year. Yaiza, for example, has its annual Fiesta during the first week of September and The Mancha Blanca Romeria (Artisan Fair) is 16th September, and all across the arts have been reminded that ´no Canarian would be willing to miss that!´

Lighting Techniciansmight have to be employed as freelance at the cost of the project rather than be supplied by any local theatre company, and whilst all across the arts have seen many shows in Lanzarote theatres that have enjoyed superb lighting and sound systems, it has to be said that the skill sets of individual technicians might not be as wide as their counterparts in the UK

Choruses drawn entirely from Lanzarotean students or adults might prove difficult to fill.However, it should be possible to put together enough singers able/willing to participate from half a dozen or so very competent choirs and an appeal to the general public would also likely attract a few volunteers.

Orchestration requirements can only properly be assessed when it is known precisely what instrumentation, in terms of numbers and range, is required. It should be noted, though that our repetituerewould be willing to rehearse chorus and play keyboard/piano in orchestra. Vocal scores would be required, with only two currently available. The cost of photocopying of such items should be factored in to the proposed overall budget.

Liaison with Local Authorities would require a bi-lingual (Spanish and English) speaker sympathetic to, and with some understanding of, the cause. It is felt that a volunteer might be found for this role, but competence is key and this could become a significant cost factor.

Accommodation and transport perhaps could be arranged with local hosts and within the chorus, etc. but it could probably prove essential to hire a car for the stage director and conductor to use as their role is likely to see them moving between various sites during the course of the workshops, rehearsals and performances.

all across the arts would assume responsibilities for all marketing and publicity, mounting a sustained advance marketing campaign utilising outlets such as Lanzarote Information, Gazette Life and Lancelot, Tourist Information outlets, commercial Spanish and English speaking radio and tv, internet and social media and niche newsletters issued by choirs, venues, schools etc. The cost of doing so would be built into the final budget and would include any consultancy fee.

Negotiation with prospective venues might see us having to discuss numbers of staff to be involved in front of house and ticketing positions.

Costing will, of course, be the most important factor and also perhaps the biggest problem of all. It seems likely that that project will need to  generate revenue to meet any costs not covered by any funding that might be attracted.

As an example, though, a 20 Euro ticket price for each ´show´ could be charged, but if each of three shows attracted an audience of 100 that would generate six thousand pounds. It should be pointed out, however, that a recent full and very well presented performance of The Marriage Of Figaro was priced at only 5 euros. This did draw about 500 people, (mostly friends and family of the performers who were all graduating students or staff members of the island´s musical academy, giving this as an end of year celebration and showcase). It has been suggested, though, that chorus members might pay for the privilege to be involved in The Pirates Of Penzance.

all across the arts have been asked whether costume hire costs would be incurred for soloists as, presumably, the company must have these available already have from previous UK tours?

Flightswould, of course, be another huge cost factor and are estimated at a minimum of 3,000 Euros

Lodging might be provided locally with chorus hosts, but if not this would add another approx. 2,000 Eu. for villa hire.

Meals, whether on a self-catering or inclusive basis, would also be cost generating

Having examined the prospective costs offlights, accommodation, and perhaps some meals to be paid for, there is unlikely to be much left over for the fees of Opera performers and technicians However, all across the arts have also been reminded that ´this is a lovely island with a wonderful climate, and visiting guests and artists would not billeted in grotty “digs”.´ Therefore, an acceptance by the UK based Opera Company that, as far as they are concerned, this would be part work, part holiday would diminish some of these issues.

There is no discernable tradition of previous high-income or of high profile sponsorship of such events on the island, other than by the Cabildo, local government, who do so as part of local services and, of course, to attract voters by supporting Lanzarotean enterprise. all across the artshave been told it ´would be surprising if any Canarian business could be persuaded to support a venture of this sort.´  There are, though air lines and tour operators who might see a synergy in what would be a fairly major working tour that might also lead to follow up events.

Sponsors will not usually step forward until the benefits of being associated with a merchandise or event has been identified for them. all across the arts have a reputation in the UK for attracting funding and sponsorship by clearly identifying the transferable soft skills that can be acquired by any student or adult participating in the arts.

We are also adept at attracting niche-specific sponsorship and on this particular project would look to attract relatively small sponsorship packages for clearly identifiable categories, such as transport, accommodation etc.

Similar musical projects have already been delivered over the last several years on the island involving musical composer and director Sergio Siminovitch from Rome, being brought over and funded by The Cabildo for an in initial visit and subsequently being brought back by a local benefactor to work with her German choir. They have so far delivered productions of a Handel or a Purcell Oratorio, though these have not been fully-staged.

The lady concerned organises these very efficiently, however, and therefore has experience of many of the above logistical issues. To attract on board people of her expertise would be a huge benefit.

The Yaiza Classical Music Festival has, in past years, also engaged players from abroad, so its organiser too, a male, has had a similar experience. There are a few other people could bring their expertise to this possible project, but it would be invidious to identify them at this stage, until they have been informally approached

determining the demand for opera

We have asked the opera company in theUKto provide us with as detailed a costing as possible, as well as logistics of instruments, performers, ´teachers´ and technicians. Any company ethos, straplines, marketing slogans and reviews would also be useful.

all across the arts will continue with a soft news campaign to alert ´new residents´ (i.e. new-ish settlers on the island) to this possible project and a concerted, comprehensive campaign to identify the local movers and shakers who might have a vested interest in becoming involved in a project that would deliver many benefits on the arts and cultural scene over here. We would seek influential media outlets, including of course, our own Sidetracks And Detours blog as well as our all across the arts pages in the MEN Media Group and on the Lanzarote Information web site. We would also look towards the two glossy English language glossy life style magazines published on the island; The Gazette, (monthly) and The Lancelot (quarterly). The English speaking radio station, Monster FM, could also be a prime site for placing advertising and soft news stories. Of course we would also encourage any eventual partners in the project, such as The Cabildo, The CIEM Music Academy, and the venues etc to fully exploit their own favoured marketing channels, espousing the potential benefits of the venture.

These benefits would include soft life skills for participants, about punctuality, preparation and creativity for instance, and an increased cultural diversity and inter-generational awareness, all helping to build an understanding and tolerance of others.

So, it seems a long way ahead at this stage, but you know what they say about long journeys and first steps. Sometimes, you just know, don´t you, that the time may be right?

All this surely suggests there might be a desire, and in some areas a need, for a working relationship with a UK company with many years of experience in the field. Now that local elections have finished over here we have an idea of who are the political movers and shakers who might be able to turn the proposed tour into reality. That, and a proposal for sponsorship, offering package deals of various kinds to interested parties would seem to high on the agenda now for all across the arts.

So what sounded like a good little idea actually means a lot of hard work for all concerned. We´ll keep you informed of progress though, of course, and if you feel you have any ideas please drop us an e mail through our contact site on our Sidetracks and Detours blog at

Check out our archives for The Marriage of Figaro and More Than Opera

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