Belfast Operatic Company is preparing to bring Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ to a newly renovated Grand Opera House in November this year, but not before taking a timely look at its past, having just celebrated its 60th Anniversary in a year which saw unprecedented closure of performance venues across the globe.
Planned celebrations included building of a 1200 seat theatre in the TEC Belfast for a unique staging of ‘Titanic The Musical’. Unfortunately a number of weeks before opening night, the Covid-19 crisis hit and plans were put on hold, the news of which broke at a celebratory Gala Ball in the Titanic Building.
The company is delighted to be one of the first visiting companies to the Grand Opera House once it reopens, and like a visit from the Ghost of Christmas past, will stage a revival of its 2013 Musical production of Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’. Having previously performed to sell-out audiences with what was then an Irish premiere, it is only appropriate that they return to live performance with such a classic, uplifting show providing a message of hope and joy suitable for all ages.
Looking further into the past, Belfast Operatic Company has a long-standing relationship with the theatre, which in December celebrated its own milestone – 125 years as the gem of the golden mile. The company has produced over 30 shows at the theatre, starting with ’The Pirates of Penzance’ back in 1988. The relationship saw the company progress from Gilbert and Sullivan favourites to modern Broadway musicals, with several Irish premieres and ground breaking innovations, including use of groundbreaking projected visual scenery, designed by local BAFTA winning VFX studio BlackNorth in the last production of this great show.
‘A Christmas Carol’ is brought to life with music by the legendary and much awarded Disney composer Alan Menken. Menken is the man behind shows such as Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Newsies, Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act and Disenchanted – a number of which Belfast Operatic have brought to the Opera House stage, nurturing a fond association with the composer’s spectacular music within the Company.
The present however paints a very different picture. With theatres, including the Opera House shuttered and the company unable to physically perform or rehearse together for over a year, it has had to think outside the box to keep members engaged. From bake-offs to open mic nights and online concerts, the company has used technology to stay together throughout. Of the pandemic and their continuing activities, Chairman Colin Boyd commented “Belfast Operatic Company is like a family. Like minded individuals come together from all walks of life on a Monday night to create music and during the last year this type of outlet has proved very beneficial to the mental health of our members. It is important that we continue to provide this to our members all through the various lockdowns. Of course, virtual events cannot replace the thrill of performing to a live audience and we are hugely excited to be coming back home to the Grand Opera House.”
Meanwhile rehearsals for the production continue on Zoom, with members learning the music in the comfort of their living rooms, while a team of restoration experts busily work to ensure that the stunning restoration of the Frank Matcham Auditorium will be ready for the curtain to rise once again. Alongside this, the members have been spending time developing their stagecraft with masterclasses in Acting with Director Wilfie Pyper MBE, and dance by choreographer Timothy Bell, whilst navigating the difficulties of Zoom.
While the past year has provided many challenges, and the present paints a similar picture for performance venues across the UK and Ireland – reopening can only occur in the final stages of the roadmap – the future does look brighter. Theatres in London are announcing reopening from Summer onwards and it is hoped the Northern Ireland Executive will follow suit as restrictions begin to ease.
Continuing their long standing relationship with the Opera House, Belfast Operatic are not only bringing ‘A Christmas Carol’ back to the stage, but looking further to the future, have just secured the rights to bring another Menken title to Belfast, Disney’s ’The Hunchback of Notre Dame’.
In the more immediate future, they are very excited to return to the Ulster Hall for their much loved annual Night of Christmas music and song in December 2021, with special guests 1st Old Boys Band.
Belfast Operatic will take to the stage of the Grand Opera House from 16th – 20th November 2021 with ‘A Christmas Carol’, tickets are on sale now from goh.co.uk or call the Box Office on 028 9024 1919.