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Thank you for looking at this page – I hope I can justify your interest as I want to share the enormous joy I have had from opera for many years. I know a lot about the subject but I am neither a musician nor a teacher; just an opera lover. My experience of sharing my knowledge is limited to my own group and to the little I hear from other group leaders. However, I am hearing more from groups and from members wanting to start a group - so let's start there.

Starting an Opera Group

We are starting off at an enormous disadvantage here trying to recruit a few members. The 'O' word for some totally irrational reason is a great disincentive to the majority of folk thinking of joining a group. They know they love some of the music but they also 'know' it's in foreign, it goes on for hours and hours and you've got to be an expert to enjoy it. It is up to us to overcome those hurdles, showing our love of the art and how easy it is the understanding.

What do we need?

The requirements for setting up an opera group are remarkably simple You need at least one other person, a reasonably comfortable room, a little equipment and a great deal of enthusiasm. If you can add refreshments, even better.

Different types of group

DVD only

The group watches a DVD of an opera often over two sessions

This is rather limiting and not encouraging to newcomers.

CD only

The group listens to presentation with excerpts from an opera (I have many of these prepared if you want to make use of them.)

Enormous variety available and editing is easy but the presentation can be a bit 'dry'.

Mixed Media

CD, MP3, YouTube, Slide show (PowerPoint) - the choice is up to you and your presentation can be on anything relating to the world of opera.

This can be stimulating and interesting and ideal for the newcomer.

Visits Many groups encourage or even organise visits to live performances and 'simulcasts' in local cinemas, but make it a golden rule never to commit yourself to tickets for others until you have their ticket money in your hand.

Do try and be a bit adventurous – after all the top ten can be repeated only a few times before they become rather too familiar and part of our remit is to learn - as well as live and laugh.

Just because an opera isn't well known or isn't 'box-office' it doesn't mean it isn't good. In my list of presentations there are many that will be unfamiliar, but that often means they have fallen out of fashion or they are difficult or expensive to perform live and it doesn't mean they are not worth listening to. Personally I have had some truly wonderful surprises.

Naturally, I look forward to hearing about your group and how you get on.

Subject Adviser - Paul Foss


Opera in Lockdown

Submitted by Paul Martinez from Carlton & Gedling U3A 

Our opera study group has taken on a whole new lease of life since the lockdown started. We are now meeting twice a month. At each meeting we discuss an opera we have all watched in the preceding fortnight and one of us introduces the next opera we are going to watch in the next fortnight.

We have been watching operas on YouTube, usually on the Operavision website. The operavision operas are usually high quality in performance, picture and audio. There are 30-40 operas available at any one time and they are usually available for a couple of months each. ALL FOR FREE.  The repertoire is, if anything, particularly strong on operas which are less well known although there are lots of popular classics as well.