A dramatic double-bill provided audiences with a thrilling evening of close-up opera at the Arcola Theatre in London, as Irrational Theatre presented their versions of ‘Gianni Schicchi’ and ‘Pagliacci’ as part of the annual Grimeborn opera festival. I took the part of the orchestra in the intimate setting of 100-seater Studio 2, and had a wonderful time accompanying the singers in director Paula Chitty’s production. ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ is the best-known aria in Puccini’s witty tale, in which Gianni Schicchi uses his impersonating skills to take revenge on his snobbish family; and in Leoncavallo’s highly emotional melodrama, based on a real murder case, professional clown Pagliacci lets reality break into performance, with violent and terrible consequences. Two rich and absorbing scores, two original and involving productions, and two nights of excellent and accessible opera!

On a lighter note, I reprised my role of ‘orchestra’ at the Jacqueline du Pré Concert Room, where OxOps took a break from their usual menu of musical theatre and presented a joyous, potted version of Strauss’s glorious hit ‘Die Fledermaus’, followed by a romp through the history of operetta that took in Offenbach, Novello and Leonard Bernstein among many others. Pass the bubbly—a toast to champagne!