Edwardian costume at the Goldsmiths' Hall

Even if we are presenting an evening of popular opera for a private party or corporate event we would always recommend the singers appearing in period costume for some of the performance.  This gives a wonderful visual impact and enhances the power of the music, and can work particularly well in a period setting.  London Festival Opera has an impressive collection of costumes from the 18th Century, Regency, Victorian and Edwardian eras.  Many have been designed and made especially for the company but some were purchased at the rare costume sales at the Royal Opera House and English National Opera.

Many of our performances are at close quarters, so not only must the costumes be of the highest standards and design, but the accessories of hair and jewellery must be convincing close up. 

Additionally, we have sets of costumes for specific operas including ‘Madame Butterfly’, ‘La Traviata’, ‘The Magic Flute’ and ‘Carmen’.  Similarly, these must look good close up and look convincing in historic settings.  If we are presenting a performance in venues such as St James’s Palace in London, Blenheim Palace or the British Embassy in Paris the costumes must look fabulous enough for the settings.

In an opera gala evening in a theatre or special event we would often perform part one in period costume and then change into stunning contemporary evening dress as a contrast. 

HMS Belfast sits regally on the Thames by Tower Bridge

Where next?  We have been lucky enough to perform in some stunning, unusual and historically important venues around the world, but we believe we made history last week performing opera for the first time during a private dinner in one of the elegant dining rooms on board HMS Belfast. Moored on the Thames by Tower Bridge in the heart of London and now open to the public for 362 days of the year, HMS Belfast is a fascinating museum ship supported by the Imperial War Museum and is well worth a visit! 

The historic ship was originally launched on St Patrick’s Day in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of World War II.  She was built as a town-class light cruiser for the Royal Navy but after the outbreak of war she saw a great deal of action acting as a blockade ship, escorting convoys and in battle.  After being struck by a German mine she underwent repairs and returned to action in 1942, going on to play a pivotal role in the Normandy landings.  She is one of only three remaining vessels from the bombardment fleet which supported the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 – the other two are now moored in the United States.  Her bombardment of the German gun battery at La Marefontaine at Gold and Juno beaches meant that the battery was able to play no meaningful part in the defence of the beaches, allowing large numbers of allied troops to land in relative safety. 

Legend has it that HMS Belfast fired the opening shots at the Normandy landings on 6th June 1944, however the ship’s log confirms her first shots were actually fired four minutes after the first shot from a ship lying just to her west.  During her 33 days supporting the landings, HMS Belfast fired an incredible total of over 5,000 shells and the force from the constant firing of her impressive armament of guns cracked the crew’s loos!  The invasion of Normandy was the last time HMS Belfast fired her guns.  In July of that year, she set sail for Plymouth Devonport and a well-earned refit, before being despatched to the Far East.

A final fascinating fact about HMS Belfast:  as she sits by Tower Bridge her guns are trained and elevated in such a way that they are aimed directly at the London Gateway (or Scratchwood Services), the last service station on the M1 before you get to London.  The service station was chosen as the hypothetical target for obliteration as it happens to sit neatly on the radius of the guns’ comfortable range (about 18.5 km at 45º elevation).  Of course, the guns are no longer loaded or capable of firing, so you’re pretty safe if you stop there for a sandwich!

Live Opera for a Birthday Party

Live opera is the perfect entertainment for a Birthday Party, particularly if the guest of honour is an opera fan!  Hearing live opera up close is stunning, it provides party guests with a thrill they will remember for ever, and the entertainment can end with a rousing operatic ‘Happy Birthday’.

We will work with you to create the perfect programme for the occasion, whether you would like the performance to be in one section at the beginning or end of dinner or performed in two or three sections between the courses of the meal.  We have performed music for a birthday party during a lunch or dinner.

A ‘Surprise Start’ is always a wonderful way of kicking off the entertainment, with singers disguised as waiters or serving staff who can burst into operatic song to the amazement of the guests.  We have even shocked a birthday guest of honour himself when his family were arranging a surprise party for him – not an evening he will forget in a hurry!

Most of our performances are in the UK but we regularly travel to Europe and often perform further afield – we have presented opera for a birthday party in Marrakech, Barbados and Hong Kong.

Depending on the venue, period costume might add an extra visual impact to enhance the performance, and accompaniment is ideally a piano or backing tracks as an alternative.

The repertoire can include celebrated arias and ensembles from the operatic repertoire (such as ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, ‘La Traviata’, ‘Carmen’ and ‘Tosca’, pieces from the operettas of Offenbach and Gilbert & Sullivan, and hits from the popular musicals of Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Bernstein and Sondheim.  There is so much wonderful repertoire to choose from to celebrate at your birthday party!

Please call us on +44 (0) 207 223 5456 or the mobile 07802 183847 to discuss music for your forthcoming birthday party – one that will remain in the memories of you and your guests for a very long time!