Camden opera lovers targeted for Puccini and pint project in Islington

A CAMDEN Town theatre director is part of a drive to bring operatic performances to the masses at a pub theatre offering ‘Puccini and a pint’ style performances.

Mark Ravenhill is one of the creative team behind an ambitious project to turn the King’s Head into the first ‘fringe’ opera house named London’s Little Opera House.

The Islington pub houses a 120-seat theatre in its back room and under the latest plans its in-house company, OperaUpClose, is set to perform a repertory season of five productions.

The programme will include La Boheme, Madam Butterfly, Cinderella, the Barber of Seville and Pagliacci – all of which have been translated to English.

The operas are due to run alternately for seven nights a week throughout February and March, with the first performance on Sunday.

Mr Ravenhill said the hope is that the cheap ticket prices and the fact people can enjoy a pint while watching the shows will attract new audiences to the art form.

He said: “There are hundreds of thousands of people who like the idea of going to an opera but feel intimidated by the prices and the culture.

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“We’re the first fringe theatre to introduce a repertory system so if someone wants to see a show like La Boheme it will be on a couple of times a week, but it may also be back on in a year’s time.”

As the author of the controversial play Shopping and F**king, Mr Ravenhill has form in pushing artistic boundaries.

In his appointment as the associate director of the Little Opera House he admits that he will again be trying to break new ground with the productions he is translating and directing.

But he says the idea is not just to update everything with swear words because “that would just be boring”.

Rather, a number of the operas have been given a contemporary feel while keeping some of the best original elements.

The King’s Head’s artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher said the venture was first conceived after the huge success of his first staging of La Boheme in his other pub, the Cock Tavern in Kilburn.

He said the format at King’s Head will allow them to try out new works at the same time instead of just keeping one opera on for an extended period as is usually the case.

“It’s going to be really exciting that we’re getting rid of the old way of doing a chunk of show and then it’s never seen again,” he said. “So we’re really reinventing the idea of a fringe theatre.”