Another great way to see opera is on tour. This is particularly true, of course, if you live outside London. But tours also visit London, and can be superb value when they do.
My favourite touring companies are, in no particular order:
English Touring Opera
Opera that moves – that’s the slogan of English Touring Opera. And, with an itinerary more complicated than Hillary Clinton on her way to Thanksgiving with Bill’s parents, this company really does get about a bit. ETO’s 2015 spring tour is visiting 18 cities across the UK, from Truro to Dundee, bringing three different productions with them. Imagine the logistics!
One of the most fun things about ETO is their crossover casts: try to see two of their operas, not just one, and you may easily catch the same singer playing two entirely different roles from night to night. Always interesting (not to mention impressive)!
Because they move about so much, ETO’s staging tends to be fairly simple and often minimalist, but always stylish and effective (to my taste). It’s also worth mentioning that their costumes are usually a treat, too. Thoroughly recommended.
Glyndebourne are busy at home from May to August with their Festival, when you go to them; once the weather gets colder, however, they pack their bags and come to you. For the first few weeks of October, the Glyndebourne Tour starts at Glyndebourne: this is an opportunity for you to go to Glyndebourne in a more relaxed and informal way (lounge suits rather than black tie), and even if you’ve been a hundred times in the summer, the Tour performances are a fun variation on the main theme. Towards the end of October, Glyndebourne’s Tour sets off to Milton Keynes, Norwich, Plymouth, Woking and further afield around the UK (steering clear of London). Click here to see what’s happening in 2015.
Glyndebourne tend to tour three productions: two from that summer’s Festival, and one they made earlier (usually a cherished audience favourite). The quality, of course, is outstanding on all fronts. That’s Glyndebourne for you.
Welsh National Opera
Welsh National Opera are based in Cardiff, but often tour right across Wales and England. You can catch them in Birmingham, Southampton, Llandudno, Liverpool, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Plymouth and Bristol. If you are under 30, you can get tickets for only £5 for any touring performance (if you’re quick!).
WNO also have a residency at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, each summer: 2015 will see them perform the British première of Richard Ayres’ Peter Pan (suitable for those aged 8+). In 2016, WNO will be performing the world premiere of Iain Bell’s In Parenthesis at ROH, which will be a setting of David Jones‘ epic poem of the same name about the experiences of a First World War soldier, including the Battle of the Somme.
As well as the opera, look out for the free pre-performance talks and even free pre-performance concerts which WNO offer!
British Youth Opera
No less a personage than H.R.H. The Prince of Wales is the Patron of British Youth Opera – which means, when it comes to opera, his taste is impeccable. I’ve never yet seen a bad production by BYO. They don’t strictly tour so much as wander around Zone 1,staying very much in London, but popping out occasionally from the Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre near the Strand (where they mostly appear) to the halls of Livery Companies and so on, by invitation. They tend to perform two, occasionally three operas at a time. A superb chance to catch some talented young singers for not much: many of whom are highly likely to cost you much more to see, further down the line!