Image: Opera North
Last week Opera North held the launch event for their new Under 30’s membership scheme at the Leeds Grand Theatre with a performance of Puccini’s famous opera La Bohème, aiming to inspire a new generation of opera-goers.
The scheme is rather fantastic and best of all free to sign up to, as long as you are a student or aged 19-29. When you sign up you gain access to free or £10 tickets for selected Opera North performances at the Leeds Grand Theatre, as well as a variety of discounts at selected bars and restaurants. You may even get the chance to go on an exclusive backstage tour! It is worth signing up to and is a great idea to try and make opera more accessible and affordable for students.
On the launch night the theme was 1950’s Parisian and so everyone dressed up in their best frocks, suits and heels all looking very fabulous. We were welcomed and taken up the grand staircase to a room where we were greeted by the ‘Operazzi’ taking our photos and staff to talk to us about the scheme. During the interval we returned to the room for more chat accompanied by a complimentary glass of champagne. Opera North had the aim to impress, and that they did giving the ultimate opera experience and making everyone attending feel special, welcomed and completely comfortable, even if you were like me and nervous about going to your first opera.
Although opera is something I would never have considered going to I went to this launch night to try it out with an open mind, and it was certainly a brilliant, classy and fun evening! However, is opera for me? Sadly not.
The production was gorgeously and magnificently executed with stunning performances and set designs that absorbed the stage and transported us to a less glamorous version of Paris. The actors all gave it their best and blew the audience away with their astonishing singing. The set design of the bar in particular was well executed, neatly turning and moving about on stage so there was always something to watch and different things to pick up on. The attention to detail really is admirable and it is clear the crew behind La Bohème, like the actors, have poured their heart and soul into their art.
However, for me it was still tedious and rather difficult to sit through at points without falling asleep. Maybe opera just isn’t my thing, but the story felt unnecessarily drawn-out and rather boring, lacking in events and drama. None of the characters were likeable, apart from the adorable Mimi, easy to sympathise with due to her innocence and tragic story. The whole audience fell in love with her. Thankfully the heightened emotional climax delivered a powerful ending, although abrupt, to partly save the show. The distracting and selective subtitles that were missing for parts didn’t help, and without the scene by scene plot summary provided I would have been lost.
Although opera isn’t for me you cannot doubt the beauty and glamour of the art, something that was evident in the production. The Opera North scheme, though, is something to sign up for and get involved in – you never know, you may fall in love!