Opera Up Close has a talent for taking opera into adventurous new territory, thanks in part to its relatable English language librettos, but also to a willingness to venture outside the established opera haunts and into more intimate locations. Whether it’s in the bowels of the Cutty Sark, between the tables of a crowded bar, in someone’s back garden or on a boat, we’ve come to expect the unexpected from the Olivier Award-winning outfit that brought us The Magic Flute on electric guitar, and Eugene Onegin in 1960s suburbia.
Paul McKenzie and Robin Norton-Hale’s reworking of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda (Mary, Queen of Scots) looks set to be one of the company’s most ambitious projects yet, and for this Tudor head-to-head they’ve teamed up with National Trust Properties for a bit of site-specific magic.
The story centres around two female leaders (one of England, one of Scotland) clashing over issues of national sovereignty, so the present-day parallels could not be more stark. Director Robin Norton-Hale told Le Cool that there’s also an “entirely historically inaccurate showdown between the two queens where they hurl insults including ‘whore’ and ‘bastard’ at each other, and that’s worth coming for alone”.
The upcoming tour is not only a great opportunity to enjoy cutting-edge opera from a energetic and captivating cast, it’s also your chance for a nose around some of Britain’s hidden heritage properties.
Norton-Hale said: “The venues are all different – Sutton House in Homerton is all dark panelling and almost cosy, even though it was owned by a very important Tudor courtier, while Osterley Park is very grand white marble, and the Chapel at the Old Royal Naval College is simply beautiful. Being in these historic places will make the people in the story seem closer to us, and realer – and that’s important, because in the opera, they are not detached nobles, but all too human”.
Tickets are available here.
By Abi Silvester