FESTIVAL OF CHICHESTER: Opera at the festival

Festival of Chichester favourites City Wall Productions offer a great festival finale with their production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen.

They will be in action - as usual in their distinctive style – at the venue that is fast becoming their home, Chichester’s Assembly Room on Friday, July 10 at 7pm and on Saturday, July 11, again at 7pm.

Lisa

Lisa

Company creative director Lisa Pow is promising a stunning retelling of Shakespeare’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream through Purcell’s beautiful music with a live orchestra.

But this time City Wall Productions are ringing the changes. For the first time ever, the company, which grew out of the University of Chichester, are staging the production on the back of open auditions rather than recruiting through their own ranks.

It means a change of duties for Lisa who usually appears as well as directs.

This time, with a much larger cast than usual, she is confining herself to directing.

“This time we have nearly 25 people in place by the time the band has been assembled,” Lisa says.

“That will require me to be out of the picture so I can keep tabs on everything.

“With six people it is easy, but when you are directing 18 to 20 people who are all singing and all acting, you cannot actually be in the middle of it yourself as well.

“We decided to make it an open call to anybody. It’s the first time we have said anybody could audition. We just wanted to open it up to local people.

“We wanted to have that community feel because the Festival of Chichester is very much a community event, of course.

“We get people messaging us, asking if they can take part, so we decided that yes, we wanted to be able to say yes to all the wonderful people out there.”

In its four years since emerging from the University of Chichester, the company has prided itself on offering a distinctive take on great works.

“We are slightly changing the story again. We are creating a world in which the Fairy Queen is the Fairy Queen, but to the humans it is the name of the local tavern.

“We are not setting it in Athens. It will be in merrie olde England. It will have a bit of a Robin Hood vibe, a bit of a Game of Thrones feel to it.

“It will have a medieval atmosphere, with a tavern and wenches and hunters and farmers.

“It’s a comedy. Nobody dies this time! I don’t know how we will cope! We don’t have a big dramatic death at the end! But there will be a lot of slapstick and a lot of fun.

“We are sometimes just crying with laughter in rehearsals, and hopefully the audience will be the same.

“This will be a very family-friendly production. I am not saying our previous productions have not been family friendly, but this one will be particularly so.

“We have done Purcell and Handel and John Blow, and the music was becoming a little more pastoral and a little more easy on the ears, so we thought it was time to go back to Purcell, the composer of Dido and Aeneas, our best-selling production.”

With this one, they’re again promising something special: “We are being sponsored by the University of Chichester, and we have been able to hire professional staging and lighting – though it will be sad not to be doing it ourselves for once!

“But we will be bringing in a real forest.

“There will be real trees – so I am quite glad that I won’t be handling that!”

Tickets for the shows are available at £15; concessions £12.50.

Festival of Chichester tickets can be bought online: www.chichestertickets.co.uk.

Box office: 01243 813595

In person: Cloisters Shop, Cathedral Cloisters, Chichester, PO19 1PX (open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm).

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