Written by Graham Billing, co-director of La Belle Hélène.
Greek myths? Who ever wants to see them on the operatic stage? Most people think they’re as stale as yesterday’s bun and only have visions of gloomy singers in togas or long floaty dresses churning out aria after aria in which they overindulge their steamy and turgid emotions.
We in Bristol Opera are currently endeavouring to show that it doesn’t have to be like that and that the old Greek tales can be a lot less dreary. We are doing this with the aid of the composer Jacques Offenbach, the eccentric German cellist who settled in Paris and virtually single-handedly created what we now call operetta – the sort of comic opera with spoken dialogue that relies on catchy tunes, vocal fireworks and crazy situations to wow audiences.
In the 1850s and 60s Offenbach was King. He was known as the Mozart of the Champs-Elysées, a nickname given him by Rossini and he composed one smash hit after another – none more smashing than La Belle Hélène, which will be Bristol Opera’s next production.
Watch this space for more news of what this wildly funny and irreverent opera is all about – and what Bristol Opera is planning to do with it and to it!