Opera Singers hit the slopes for their latest productionBy Hugh Fort
November 08, 2012
Opera singers will be whizzing down a ski slope while hitting the high notes during a wintery show at South Hill Park.
The East Berkshire Operatic Society are staging part of its latest production on skis giving Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers a whole new setting.
The production is usually set in
18th century Venice, but EBOS have given it a sparkling snow makeover
to celebrate a double Diamond
“It’s been the Queen’s Jubilee and EBOS’s this year and I wanted to set it in 2012 so I could capture the spirit of the Jubilee and Olympics,” says director Duncan Hamilton.
“It’s all to do with the diamond sparkles. We wanted to have a glittering show so the diamonds are represented by snow and ice and we have a mountain dusted with snow.”
The mountain is actually a working ski slope which has been borrowed from the John Nike Leisure Centre in Bracknell for the production.
And the actors have been busy working on their skiing skills ready to shoot down the slopes.
“I’m so lucky because we have a really talented group of actors and singers,” says Duncan. “Not only do they have to act and ski but some times they do it at the same time.
“We have had lots of help and support from John Nike who have provided us with training and lent us all the slope equipment for the stage.
“They’ve also given us lots of technical help in the design and helped build our on stage ski slope.”
As well as swapping the warm waters of Venice for the chilly slopes of an unknown island, Duncan has added plenty of contemporary references to the show.
“There are lots of references to the Royal Wedding and things like that,” says Duncan. “It’s a funny script and it brings it all to life by giving it a contemporary setting.
“If the actors can recognise the character types it helps them connect with the story.”
The original Gilbert and Sullivan production sees a young bride arrive in Venice to join her husband, the heir to the throne of Barataria.
But when she arrives it turns out he cannot be identified as he was entrusted to the care of a drunken gondolier who mixed up the prince with his own son.
To make matters more complicated the King of Barataria has been killed and the two gondoliers must jointly rule the kingdom until they can work out who is who.
In EBOS’s version a few tweaks have been made with the gondoliers becoming cleaners of Italian descent who look after the gondolier carriages on the London Eye.
The two men find fame and fortune on The X Factor but their dreams of an easy life are disrupted when they are contacted by a man from the secret service who tells them one of them is the lost king of a distant, icy island.
“Gilbert and Sullivan is like Shakespeare – you can do anything with it because it’s so well written,” says Duncan, who also says the music in the show is some of the best written by the duo.
“They were having a fall-out at the time of writing and because Gilbert, who was normally the dominant one, was worried Sullivan was going to go off he allowed him to write more music so there’s a lot more to it.”
And what would Gilbert and Sullivan say about the modern reworking?
“I think they’d be used to this kind of thing by now,” says Duncan, “but they probably wouldn’t quite expect this.”