The arts suffered a lot during the pandemic, but for the English Touring Opera – as the name suggests – things had to come to a complete stop. That is to say until now.
The company will bring its very first production on tour since the pandemic began to Tunbridge Wells next week – and it will be a particularly special time for producer Matthew Turbett.
A Skinners School alumnus Matthew and the company perform a lesser-known Handel opera at the Assembly Hall Theater on Tuesday, November 9.
But the whole tour is a breath of fresh air for a company made to be on the road, which hasn’t been able to make it for 18 months.
He said: “Yes, it’s been a pretty tough 18 months for everyone. When Covid first struck, we were only a week into the start of our big spring tour. Looking back, it seems ridiculous that we thought it would only have lasted six weeks. “
But, as the closures began to kick in and the chance to happen ran out, the business, like many, branched out.
âIn the fall of 2020 we produced a series of shows that included a singer, dancer and pianist. We rehearsed and managed to perform at Snape Maltings and Tunbridge Wells, but the November lockdown began just around the corner. where we were about to open at the Hackney Empire in London. But instead of live performances we filmed the shows in Hackney and they were shown on Marquee TV. “
Amadigi, which they bring to the theater in Tunbridge Wells, is a story about the nauseous highs and wild lows of love, following a group of young adults enchanted by a witch. And his lesser-known status was a conscious choice.
âUsually ETO presents at least two different operas on a tour,â he said. “Due to Covid, we’ve decided that when we return to performing, we should focus on just one opera, so we’re on tour in a relatively under-performed opera.”
“It’s been so long since we’ve been able to perform in front of an audience. That doesn’t mean we haven’t enjoyed performing in front of cameras and doing digital work, but that’s what we do best and it’s great to be back. “
Matthew’s family still lives in the area, in Uckfield, so he can combine the date of the tour with visiting the family.
However, his stint with Skinners did not cement his artistic ambitions as he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do then.
âAt Skinners, I’ve always loved music and theater, as well as science. It was a great environment that nurtured those passions, but I don’t think I ever really knew how to get into theatrical production.â
The show also features another local, Christopher Walker, who plays the small but important role of the boy, Orgando. The role is performed by a young local singer in each venue, selected through an open audition.
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