Wardrobe mistress attends to Dorabella's hair in our magnificent dressing room at The Goldsmiths' Hall

With over thirty years of performing under our belts and dozens, if not hundreds, of private and corporate engagements during that time it struck me recently, as I travelled round London, in just how many fantastic venues we have been lucky enough to perform.  Our capital city has so very many beautiful and historic locations which lend themselves perfectly as venues for dinners, soirées, corporate events and receptions – and there can be almost no better complement for such an evening than live opera!  It is very exciting to sing in a venue which was not necessarily built for performance – and with imagination and the power of live opera the thrilling possibilities are endless!

Some wonderful memories came flooding back as I travelled and the thought of setting out a ‘London Festival Opera City Bus Tour’ came to me – a pure indulgence of course, but one that fills me with pride!

We alight the ‘bus’ in Central London at St James’s Palace, where we performed on several occasions for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme in the presence of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex.  Carrying on up St James’s Street passing by The Ritz Hotel (memories of a civil partnership dinner with Lucien Freud as one of the guests), and continuing down Piccadilly past the Royal Academy of Art (a surprise opera gala for a major charity – ‘singing waiters’ taking guests quite off their guard!) and Le Méridien Hotel (a series of in-house operas in their beautiful Oak Room).  Passing the bustle of Piccadilly Circus we head down The Haymarket, reaching the Institute of Directors, where we presented a charity gala in one of the magnificent state rooms.  Immediately opposite the IOD is the stunning Athenaeum Club (astonishing swimming pool!) where we performed at a wedding anniversary dinner with a programme including favourite arias of the hosts.  On to The Reform Club, and I am reminded of our artists arriving for rehearsals only to be a little flummoxed by the strict dress code of ‘no jeans and jackets and ties for gentlemen’!

We continue our journey down to Trafalgar Square flanked by the National Gallery (corporate dinners for a major bank amongst some of the world’s most stunning masterpieces!), South Africa House (a charity gala in their beautifully formed intimate theatre), and down Whitehall to the Banqueting House (built by King Charles I, at the time not realising this would be the site of his own execution!).  The bus continues on to 10 Downing Street, where we presented a charity performance in the Drawing Room for a distinguished audience.

By now I am feeling a little overwhelmed as I realise how fortunate we have been to have been asked to perform in these stunning historic settings.  As performers, of course, we very often see ‘the back stairs’ side of a venue as well as the grandeur of state rooms – the behind the scenes experiences and insights are surely the basis for a book one day!

We have now arrived at The House of Commons and I remember with great affection a private performance for the personal guests of former The Speaker, Baroness Betty Boothroyd, in the Speaker’s House. 

Leaving Westminster we travel down the Embankment, looking back at a host of incredible buildings along the river – the Tate Gallery (‘a Family Opera’ in the lofty lobby), Lambeth Palace over the bridge (several charity occasions including one in the presence of HRH Princess Margaret), The Liberal Club at One Whitehall Place (corporate events in the beautiful Library), Middle Temple Hall (a thrill to perform in this ancient setting where Queen Elizabeth I attended performances of Shakespeare’s plays), the Inner Temple and Grays Inn Hall (corporate and charity events).  Finally there is the JP Morgan Building where we have performed at in-house corporate occasions.

Passing Blackfriars Bridge I reflect on the many performances in Livery Companies, most notably the Drapers’ Hall (including an Edwardian Gala in the presence of HRH Princess Alexandra), Goldsmiths’ Hall (for their many wonderful in-house opera evenings) and Fishmongers’ Hall (several high-profile charity galas), to name but a few. 

Our journey begins to draw to a close in the very heart of the City of London passing the Mansion House, where we had the honour to perform at charity dinners for several Lord Mayors.  The Bus finally arrives at its destination – the magnificent Guildhall, where I remember with fondness a large-scale charity gala with soloists, ensemble and chorus.  This is the very centre of our magnificent city and a wonderful place to end this journey of happy memories. 

If you are planning an event and would like to find out how a live opera performance can enhance a dinner or reception please call me, Philip Blake-Jones, on 07802 183847.  I can help you to plan a truly special event, and also provide plenty of inspiration if you haven’t yet decided on a venue….! 

Charity Fundraising Event

Fundraising in times of financial hardship and political uncertainty is tough, no matter how worthy the cause.  Charities now, even more than ever, need to find new, innovative ways to catch the attention of potential donors and to bring them into a ‘feel-good’ setting, where spirits can be raised as well as funds!

Traditionally, large-scale charitable fundraising has often been aimed at a luxury market; drawing perhaps from a relatively small group of donors, albeit one with all the right resources!  Increasingly, however, charities are looking to broaden their base of regular donors to include a new and larger demographic.  What better way could there be to attract a new crowd into the concept of generous and regular giving than by treating them to a spectacular event which offers a touch of luxury, something with a real ‘Wow!’ factor?

Opera can often be perceived to be a serious and heavy art form, one with which you need to be familiar in order to enjoy it.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  A gala dinner (for instance) with entertainment by London Festival Opera includes many of the best-known arias so will appeal equally to newcomers and seasoned opera lovers alike.  It will provide a sophisticated but lively and fun evening, full of drama, passion, humour and interaction with guests.  Who could fail to feel flattered to receive the attentions of Carmen as she serenades a male guest with a red rose during her infamous Habanera aria?  Or indeed, have their adrenalin levels raised by The Barber of Seville approaching them with a large and shiny blade?!  All this combined with the thrill of hearing at close range the human voice in its most refined form is an unbeatable combination.

London Festival Opera have been involved with charity fundraising events for many years, having been the vehicle for raising many hundreds of thousands of pounds for a wide range of charities, including the British Red Cross, Animal Health Trust, The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Tusk, Cancer Research, Mencap, Barnardo’s and Tommy’s Campaign.  Venues have ranged from London Livery Halls to private country houses, including theatres, concert halls, schools and Royal Palaces along the way.  We have many years of experience creating bespoke programmes for charity events, so please do feel free to contact us if you are considering organising a special event and would appreciate advice on how best to entertain your guests for maximum effect.  As well as advice on the type of programme which would be most suitable for your cause we can also advise on sponsorship ideas which have worked and helped charities raise funds in the past.

If guests leave a fundraising event without having had their emotions heightened, their passions aroused, or their laughter muscles exercised they are more likely to leave with money still in their pockets.  If you move them with excitement, passion, laughter and tragedy all in the space of an hour, having set those emotions to some of the greatest and most rousing music ever written, you’re on to a winner.

Please contact:  Philip Blake-Jones on +44 (0) 207 223 5456 or 07802 182847

philip@londonfestivalopera.co.uk

www.londonfestivalopera.co.uk

Nothing beats the thrill of hearing an opera singer up close and the power of the human voice will astound your guests.  There is so much repertoire to choose from; passionate arias, romantic love duets, and powerful ensembles.  Combine this with humour and audience interaction and you are on to a winner!  Opera is perfect too for multi-national events and conferences.

Opera is a sophisticated art-form but is essentially an entertainment and can transform an event into something truly memorable for you and your guests.  We create programmes that are ideal for existing opera lovers but which will also appeal to newcomers alike.

We will work with you to create the perfect programme and include something for everyone: from the celebrated operas (such as ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, ‘Carmen’, ‘La Traviata’ and ‘Madame Butterfly’), operettas (including the works of Gilbert & Sullivan), and musicals (with hits from the works of Gershwin, Rogers & Hammerstein, Bernstein and Lloyd-Webber).

Accompaniment can range from an orchestra, instrumental ensemble or backing tracks if a piano is not available.  The singers can appear in glamorous modern evening dress or in stunning period costume for an added visual impact (Georgian, Regency, Victorian or Edwardian).

Our performances are usually introduced with a few carefully selected words that will bring the arias and ensembles to life for an audience.

London Festival Opera has arranged performances to link with all ranges of events – from a private dinner party for 20 to a large-scale al fresco event for thousands.  We perform not only in the UK and Europe but often travel internationally to Hong Kong, India, Barbados and Canada.

We have presented successful opera performances for many leading companies including Goldman Sachs, Brocket Hall, The Goring Hotel, Price Waterhouse, Hermes, Arthur Andersen, Deutsche Bank, AXA, PC World, Bank of New York and BMI Healthcare.

Please do call us to discuss how live opera can transform your next Corporate or Special Event into something truly memorable – an occasion you and your guests will remember for ever.  Please call 00 44 (0) 1722 324847.

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