Presenting fully staged grand opera, sung in English

Written by Graham Billing, co-director of La Belle Hélène.

Time is running out now and we’re already at the beginning of show week and in the throes of our get-in at the theatre. I promised one more blog before the performances, and here it is.

I’ve already endeavoured to talk you through the extended finales of the first two acts, so it only remains for me to pass on some information about the end of Act Three without including any spoilers. With the current Greek crisis – which has meant that marital infidelity has reached positively pandemic proportions – the ineffectual King Menelaus has issued an invitation to no less an expert than the High Priest of Venus to make an official visit and sort out the country’s problems. It is taken for granted by everyone that the whole erotic brouhaha is the result of Venus, the goddess of love, being displeased with the people of Greece.

The finale is therefore devoted to the arrival of the said High Priest and his oracular pronouncements. The chorus is excited at seeing the «galley» which brings the High Priest to the seaside resort where everyone is holidaying. I put «galley» in inverted commas, because Bristol Opera’s boat might be best described by a different term, but you’ll have to wait until the performances to see what I mean by that. As I said: no spoilers!

It’s not really a spoiler though to report that when the High Priest does heave into view, he is not impressed by the prayer with which he is greeted. He is very much concerned to lighten the mood and does so by doing something which no one would expect to find in either Ancient Greece or Second Empire France. He yodels, in a cheeky little song which throws out a challenge to any tenor.

He then presents his solution to the problem – Helen is to take a little trip on his galley as far as the island of Cithera, which is sacred to Venus. That doesn’t seem to be a big issue – but is Venus’ High Priest really who he says he is? Now, if I were to answer that question, it really would be a spoiler. You need to buy your tickets to find that out.

So – this is your final call! Some tickets are still available for Bristol Opera’s wacky production of an even wackier show, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week. Full details about tickets sales and our performance venue are readily available on