Press Reviews

The Pirates of Penzance on Hastings Pier

I can’t recall any opera on Hastings Pier since Glyndbourne staged their first community opera here back in 1990, so an outdoor production of The Pirates of Penzance from Opera Anywhere was doubly welcome. Happily the early promised rain did not materialise and the pier was bathed in evening sunlight with magnificent views in all directions.

At first the idea that the event was to be staged on the upper deck seemed a little strange but this is only because the pier itself is so vast. The upper deck easily held an audience of 100, many of them at tables, and there was still more than enough space for the company and musicians. The other great benefit was the lack of any need for amplification. With the wood panelling behind, the singing voices carried very well and there were only a few moments when spoken words disappeared, particularly if the soloists were sitting.

There was, needless to say, no full chorus, but the intimacy of the space meant that the singers made even greater impact. This was impressively so from Major Stanley’s daughters who giggled and squealed magnificently as well as singing with precision and clarity. The bluffer pirates held their own, led by Miles Horner as a suitably grandiose Pirate King. Tristan Stock’s Frederick provided a lyric tenor lead and was genuinely moving in both his duets with Susanna Buckle‘s Mabel and the stirring act two trio with Ruth and the Pirate King.  Vanessa Woodward’s Ruth allows us to laugh at her as well as with her but she never becomes the victim she so easily can. Mike Woodward’s Major General took a little while to get into his stride but his self-importance and cunning soon shone through and one of Gilbert’s most biting creations came fully to life. Mark Horner’s Sergeant of Police was as fine as I can recall, singing the part with lovely attention to detail but always remaining fully in character. It was a treat, even if he had to put up with three very giggly officers (and in night-gowns as well!)

Accompaniment was provided by Nia Williams on the keyboard with woodwind from Nick Planas who also provided the arrangements. As with the singers, it was good to have live rather than amplified sound and Sullivan’s score came across with surprising ease.

There was to be another performance on the next evening. Let us hope that the success of this outing encourages a return – and maybe Hastings will become recognised for more than just its Pirates!

– Dr Brian Hick, Lark Reviews & The Hastings Observer, August ’17


The Mikado at Bayham Abbey as part of the Lamberhurst Festival

“Just when it looked as though Saturday evening might be a wash-out the sun came through, the sky cleared and picnicking could begin at Bayham Abbey before the start of that evening’s Mikado. The event was part of this year’s Lamberhurst Festival and was by Opera Anywhere who specialise in small scale touring productions but do not skimp on musical quality. All the voices we heard were appropriate and well-focused, and the accompaniment, based around Nia Williams at the piano, included solo strings and wind. Amplification was inevitably in use but was sensitively balanced to maintain an illusion of natural voices. That the singers could probably have carried without amplification was clear when the schoolgirls entered from the back of the seating area and could easily be heard though they were far from the stage itself.

Director Miles Horner’s approach was comfortably conventional, allowing the familiar narrative to unfold without any unnecessary attempts to add additional jokes or to update Gilbert’s lyrics – with the obvious exception of Ko-Ko’s little list which ranged from cold calling to Donald Trump. Mike Woodward gave us an idiosyncratic Ko-Ko, the voice alarmingly like Ambridge’s bad boy Matt Crawford. I did wonder for a moment whether the whole production was not a nightmare in the mind of Linda Snell!

One of the finest moments was very much unplanned. At the start of Act2 Yum-Yum, Nadia Eide Storrs in fine voice, had just launched into The sun whose rays when a formation of geese languidly flew across the twilight. It was a magical moment, but capped soon after when she was able to sing the second verse directly to the full moon which hung above us. How often can a Yum-Yum do that?

David Menezes gave us a lyrical Nanki-Poo and David Jones, a late substitute, a suitably cynical Pooh-Bah. Miles Horner doubled Pish-Tush with the Mikado. Vanessa Woodward brought a sense of reserve to Katisha, rather than the more conventional blood-thirsty harridan, but one sensed there was no bright future even after Tit-willow.

The choral parts were taken by members of the company and it is one of the advantages of amplification that four voices can sound like a much greater force when they come from speakers all around you.

While a significant number of the audience drew their chairs closer to the stage, many remained at their picnic tables to enjoy the ambience of the abbey and the mist which rolled in across the fields as the moon rose. About as close to an English idyll as one could wish”. – Dr Brian Hick, Lark Reviews & The Hastings Observer, August ’17


H.M.S.Pinafore at The Theatre, Chipping Norton

Now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!

The Magic Flute at Waterperry Gardens

“As the sun set and a crescent moon rose over Waterperry, Opera Anywhere swathed the evening and audience in the beautiful and complex tones and tales of Mozart’s Magic Flute. In the liminal space between light and dark they wove an enchanted web of captivating music and drama. Everyone left enchanted, with the magic of the musical performance shimmering in their ears” – Helen Smith, Daily Info., July 2016  See full review


 The Pirates of Penzance at Bournemouth

“A cast of ten, plus two musicians (3 if you count Ruth’s trumpet accompaniment at one point) brought the familiar story to vibrant and energetic life whilst playing it fairly straight, and the way in which they made up for their lack of numbers was nothing short of ingenious, just proving what can be done with a bit of lateral thinking”…. “There wasn’t a microphone in sight yet the singing came over loud and clear and the voices were among the best I have ever heard” – Linda Kirkman, 23 April 2016 Full review on the Opera Anywhere Facebook page


The Pirates of Penzance at Eynsham

“Every man and woman of them gave it both barrels of a piratical blunderbuss, and the church rocked with energy and fun”

Andrew Bell, Daily Information 31st July 2015 (Full review)


The Bear plus The Old Maid & The Thief at Waterperry Gardens

“From the opening wail of despair to the closing passionate duel, The Bear performed by Opera Anywhere at Waterperry Gardens on Friday night hit high notes, high drama and unexpected humour”

Helen Smith, Daily Information 10th July 2015 (Full review external link)


Menotti Double Bill
“Opera Anywhere has already established an enviable reputation for small-scale opera; with this double bill, they have set themselves a new benchmark in excellence”
Nicola Lisle, Oxford Times, 9th April 2009 (full review – external link)


La Dolce Vita Opera Cruise
“Mike and Vanessa Woodward’s Opera Anywhere runs intimate Thames cruises for opera buffs. Jeffery Taylor floats downstream.”
Jeffery Taylor, Sunday Express, 29th June 2008


An Opera Anywhere Christmas – Dec 2013 Tour:  Liza Lehmann songs + Amahl & The Night Visitors (Menotti)

The big gothic church of St Andrews played host to an interesting and ambitious seasonal presentation on Tuesday, of a series of songs derived from Belloc and Carroll poems, and the short Menotti opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, from the Opera Anywhere team.

The songs were, to be honest, something of a challenge for the younger children in the audience, even if (as was probably the case) they knew and loved them very well as poems. The excellent printed program gave us the background to their creation by Liza Lehmann in the 1890s, and the fact that some of these adaptations were very highly regarded by Benjamin Britten.

Menotti was very particular about the opera needing a boy soprano in the title role of his opera, but in this production we have a female lead, who handled the part excellently. The opera was accompanied by piano and flute with a simple and elegant score, which worked very nicely in the space of the church. The full length of the nave was used by the performance, and it was noticeable too how subtly and cleverly the lighting was handled, expressing the mood of the pieces or illustrating the approach of night.

As a single-act piece of just 45 minutes, Amahl is sometimes thought of as a relatively gentle way of introducing children to the world of opera. But it is a mid-20th century piece, and that means occasional complexity and dissonance, and virtually no naturalistic speech, which can make the story difficult to follow: while the spectacle of the opera clearly interested children, some were a bit bewildered by just what was going on!

So although the evening billed itself as entertainment for the whole family, it was perhaps quite an ambitious presentation. There can be no argument though, about the excellence and highly-trained proficiency of the singing and of the theatre – Opera Anywhere, a very interesting collective of highly experienced performers again claimed mastery of a fine venue.

ndaisley (DI Reviewer), 18/12/13


Book Shop Opera’s  – The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance at Blackwells Bookshop – May / June 2013

FOUR STARS

An opening chorus of three (one man, two ladies), an orchestra of two (a piano and a flute), a female Nanki-Poo – it sounds like the recipe for disaster. But Opera Anywhere is a company that could stage the telephone directory and make a decent fist of it, and this production of The Mikado, set against the unlikeliest of backdrops, is possibly one of their greatest triumphs.

Originally designed and directed by Paula Chitty for the Sunningwell Festival, it has been cleverly adapted for the Norrington Room by Helen Winter, who made imaginative use of the space. The novelty of seeing these assorted characters from the town of Titipu strutting their stuff among the bookshelves – and at one point, scarily, on top of some bookshelves – was both charming and captivating. It was a bit like opening a magic box and watching the characters come gradually to life, before putting them all away again and closing the lid.

Among an exceptionally strong cast it seems unfair to single anyone out, but I particularly loved Fred Broom’s jolly Mikado and Matthew Kellett’s strongly-sung, suitably sneering Pooh-Bah. Paloma Bruce, Sian Millett and Nikki Bagshaw made a sprightly trio of little maids, while Nia Williams and Nick Planas did sterling work as the ‘orchestra’. This was a bright, lively, energetic production, with laughs a-plenty and a cast that was clearly having a ball. It bodes well for this week’s production of The Pirates of Penzance, which runs from Thursday to Saturday, and brings Opera Anywhere’s two-week G&S Festival to a magnificent finale. Expect lots more fun and mayhem as the Norrington Room becomes home to a band of swashbuckling pirates.


The Pirates of Penzance

The Opera Anywhere production of Pirates is quite spiffing. Nothing has been lost, and the Artistic Director has been splendidly successful in maintaining the vigour, vitality and richness of the original. There is a very high standard of singing and a superlative keyboard accompaniment from the ever alert Louisa Lam. The comedy is fun throughout and there is some very realistic and convincing acting. In short, every aspect of this show is quality and it is not to be missed. This is a smart, sharp and witty production; costumes, make-up and lighting areall excellent, the atmosphere is electric, the timimg is always superb, and everyone has a good time, including the actors the themselves. The audience were all favourably impressed and repeatedly applauded with elan.
Opera Anywhere is clearly doing a great job and needs to be complimented, especially hardworking Managing Director Mike and his indefatigable wife Vanessa – Oxford Prospect – Full Review


The Mikado

It’s not often you get to see The Mikado accompanied by the occasional splashing of ducks, or with Ko-Ko making his first appearance in a punt. But this is all part of the charm of the Sunningwell Festival — a kind of mini Henley Festival set around a village pond instead of the Thames — and on Saturday this ten-day arts jamboree came to a rousing close with Opera Anywhere’s Jubilee-themed production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular operetta”Nicola Lisle, Oxford Times June, 2012


Pirates on the Pond
“Opera Anywhere marked their tenth anniversary on Saturday by returning to where it all started — at the Proms on the Pond in Sunningwell…”
Nicola Lisle, Oxford Times, 9th June 2010 (full reviewexternal link)


Christmas Opera Double Bill
“this years offering was as fresh and sparkling as ever”
Nicola Lisle, Oxford Times, 17th December 2009 (full reviewexternal link)


Menotti Double Bill
“Opera Anywhere has already established an enviable reputation for small-scale opera; with this double bill, they have set themselves a new benchmark in excellence”
Nicola Lisle, Oxford Times, 9th April 2009 (full review – external link)


La Dolce Vita Opera Cruise
“Mike and Vanessa Woodward’s Opera Anywhere runs intimate Thames cruises for opera buffs. Jeffery Taylor floats downstream.”
Jeffery Taylor, Sunday Express, 29th June 2008


La Dolce Vita Opera Cruise
“…the official launch last week lived up to expectations. On a hot, sunny evening, a small group of us enjoyed a selection of arias from favourite operas…”
Nicola Lisle, Oxford Times, 19th June 2008 (full review – external link)


Arias on Ice
“The coming together of two art forms – opera singing and ice skating – looks, on paper, a wonderful idea…”
Nicola Lisle, Oxford Times, December 2007 (full review – external link)


Christmas Opera Double Bill
“Confident acting and a voice of exceptional purity and strength combine to make this a truly remarkable and memorable portrayal.”
Nicola Lisle, Oxford Times, December 2007 (full review – external link)


Proms on the Pond, Sunningwell Festival 2007
“This was a wonderfully entertaining evening, with good music, a talented cast and laughs a-plenty. Superb.
Nicola Lisle, Oxford Times, August 2007


Don Giovanni – “Just the Business” 

“Some stories come up trumps, no matter what you do to them. But Don Giovanni not only survived in Opera Anywhere’s re-interpretation, it actually thrived in their radical chamber staging.”
Tom Walker, Opera Now Magazine, July 2007 


Don Giovanni

“The result is a refreshing and completely valid version of Mozart’s opera, following the story-line closely but reminding one that his characters are real people with real emotions involved in the sexual politics of real situations (unlike many recent productions).”
Peter Schofield, Oxford Magazine, May 2007


Don Giovanni 

“It is a courageous move to take a much-loved opera and drag it resolutely into the 21st century. But Opera Anywhere’s updated version of Don Giovanni is bright, fresh, witty and dramatic.”
Nicola Lisle, May 2007, The Oxford Times


Classical Music Magazine, Interview and Feature 

“It is a brave opera company that lets in the tv cameras – as the Royal Opera  discovered to its cost some years ago. But Opera Anywhere, a small company with big ambitions, has few regrets.”
Nicola Lisle, April 2007, Classical Music Magazine 


Arias on Ice 

“All those who find pleasure in skating as a performing art should hope that the relationship between opera and skating flourishes.”
Janet West , April 2007, iSKATE Magazine


Oxford Times, Interview and Feature 

“In more ways than one, this is a company that is really going places.”
Nicola Lisle, December 2006, The Oxford Times


Great Opera Moments

“This dazzling collection of operatic cameos, spanning several centuries and featuring familiar and not-so-familiar composers, adds up to a truly exciting evening”
Nicola Lisle, August 2006, The Oxford Times


Curiouser and Curioser

“Once again, this innovative company has come up with a fun evening guaranteed to get you in the festive mood”
Nicola Lisle, Dec 2005, The Oxford Times.


Carry On Gilbert & Sullivan

“The enthusiasm and talent of this mainly Oxford based cast ensure that the pace never falters – It all adds up to two hours of pure delight”
Nicola Lisle, The Oxford Times


Too Hot To Handel

“A show not to be missed for the opera lover and the lover of just sheer entertainment!”
The Abingdon Herald


‘The Bear’ and ‘A Dinner Enagement’ (Double Bill)

“Both pieces add up to an evening of light-hearted fun, which is well worth catching if you can.”
Oxford Times Review


Proms on the Pond

“Supremely, even sublimely English, however, was the Tales of Hoffmann ‘Bar carolle’ sung in a rubber dinghy rather than a gondola”
Hugh Vickers, Oxford Times, August 2005

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