Classical music

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The Independent Culture
Believe it or not, there is a new opera house opening in London this weekend. Just what we need, when nobody has yet proved that we can fill the ones we already have. To make matters more bizarre, it's in Spitalfields, joining the well-established summer festival in Christ Church as another stage in the expanding high-art activity that is surely the very sort of investment this lively, Bengal-dominated district is looking for. Can they be holding on to their sanity out there?

Well, maybe. The rationale is that London doesn't have a proper space for small opera - something the South Bank Centre will vigorously deny. Certainly, the current Covent Garden Festival helps to make the point by putting on its operas in all kinds of spaces that normally never touch the stuff, with a spirit of adventure and discovery that the smaller companies thrive on.

Spitalfields Market Opera means to transform the city scene with a 500- seater auditorium put up inside the old market building. Amazingly, it has been built in eight weeks. But there's a catch: it isn't finished. Still to come are an upper loggia, an orchestra pit, and a large raised stage. But that means the acoustic shell, foyer, raked seating and staircases are in place.

Starting with a free "Singathon" on Sunday, the first fortnight sees visits by some of the well-known small touring companies (Opera Circus, Modern Music Theatre Troupe) and some less well-known. It builds up to the inaugural production by the Spitalfields Market Opera company, a double- bill of Mozart's The Impresario and Salieri's Prima la musica, poi le parole, with music under the direction of Jonathan Tilbrook. Staging is by Philip Parr. There's also a token, multicultural "Celebration of Spring", which may keep the funding bodies happy. For the rest of us, perhaps, there's everything to prove.

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