“Opera is often thought to be difficult and elitist, but this is not so,” Alexej Ignatow, producer of The Russian State Ballet and Opera House, tells me.
“Its form is timeless and, like any art, needs to be presented in an accessible and attractive way to the audience. No experience is needed to enjoy these classics. Our sets and costume designs, as well as the informative programmes, make the productions very accessible and most of all, enjoyable.”
It is becoming clear to me that the mission of this opera house is to bring opera to the people, particularly the people outside of London without easy access to West End productions.
It is in this vein that they bring Carmen to the Watford and St Albans next week.
“This is one of the most famous operas,” Julia Ignatowa tells me, she has worked with the company for eight years, touring with them and now as their marketing manager. “It’s been done so many times in different ways, different producers and different decades have their own input so you never get tired of watching it; it will always be different.”
“It is about Carmen, a gypsy lady, and it’s about a love triangle. I don’t want to give too much away but as usual in opera, someone dies. Some people love her and some people hate her, it depends how you look at her.
“The music is amazing, it’s songs that people will have heard but will think ‘oh I never knew that was from Carmen’.”
Set in 19th century Seville, it tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by Carmen, a free-spirited femme fatale.
José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to the glamorous toreador Escamillo.
The production is sung in French but offers English subtitles, and is accompanied by a large live orchestra with over 30 musicians.
The company spends at least a year and a half preparing for a production, travelling to different theatres for one, sometimes two nights before moving on again.
“We try to offer people a very good quality production locally so they don’t have to travel to London” Julia explains. “Opera especially is seen as an older generation production but it’s not, there are so many things that people will experience and enjoy even if they don’t know anything about the opera. Musically or visually, there’s so many things in one production.
“There’s so many people who never see opera, I’ve had friends who have come and been very surprised that they enjoyed it because they’ve not known anything about it.”
Alban Arena, Civic Centre, St Albans, AL1 3LD, Wednesday, October 5, 7.30pm. Details: 01727 844488