In the world of British opera, it's far from grim up north

It was staged, not at Covent Garden, scene of many prestigious first nights, but at the Theatre Royal in Manchester, a city with its own classical tradition and aficionados.

Now a new study shows the north of England's love of the performing arts has surpassed that in the South. Those in the North-west are now three times more likely to attend an opera than those in the South-east, according to the figures.

Nearly one in 10 in the North-west named opera as their favourite form of theatrical production, and those in the North-east joined the chorus of approval. Only 3 per cent of those in the South-east spoke of opera as their favoured form of entertainment, despite having two professional houses on their doorstep, English National Opera at the Coliseum in London and the nearby Royal Opera House.

The soprano Suzannah Clarke is one of a number of distinguished singers who hail from the North, among them the soprano Lesley Garrett and the bass John Tomlinson.

"There is a different culture in the north of England and a greater sense of community," said Miss Clarke. "They are less suspicious and more open. The audiences are far more willing to get involved."

Ellen Kent, a leading producer of large-scale touring operas from eastern Europe, said: " Our biggest audiences are in Liverpool, Manchester, Sunderland, Edinburgh and Glasgow. We do phenomenal business at all of them.

"There seems to be great loyalty in the North, where there is a huge tradition of music - the big choirs, brass bands and the first performance of La Bohème."

This weekend Ms Kent was staging a production of Bizet's Carmen at the Sunderland Empire, a venue her productions have been visiting for over a decade.

In the audience on Friday night was Carol Atkinson, 45, from nearby Washington. She said: "Carmen is a favourite of mine. I go to the theatre every few months with friends and I think it's great that we're getting so many more quality productions in the North. As far as northerners being more cultured - of course we are."

One of the issues that may have affected attitudes is that many in the South associate opera with dedicated venues such as the Royal Opera House or the Coliseum, which may be intimidating to the uninitiated. Northern opera-goers are more likely to see a touring production at their local theatre, at which they may well feel at home.

It is not only the big industrial cities that can expect opera performances. The Merseyside town of St Helens slots in Puccini's Tosca this week, shortly before shows by Jimmy Tarbuck and the Houghton Weavers.

Richard Mantle, general director of the Leeds-based Opera North, said: "Although London has the Royal Opera House and the English National Opera pumping out opera all year round, there are also a lot more distractions in London competing for attention. I suspect that because there isn't opera on all the time outside London, it is considered more of an event."

The survey, for Theatre Tokens, found that nationwide, opera was rated the favourite theatrical experience by 3 per cent of those questioned. The top choice was comedy with 35 per cent, while musicals were chosen by 34 per cent.

At the Sunderland Empire before 'Carmen'

Olive Hepburn, Age 64, South Shields

"As more productions come here the North-South divide is slowly closing. People here are becoming more culturally aware"

Bethanie Dennis, Age 14, Jarrow

"I'm really into music in general. It's my favourite subject at school. It's brilliant that the big shows are now coming here from London"

Margaret Nysler-Smith, Age 50, Easington

"I chose 'Carmen' because it's a bit of a classic. My favourite opera is 'La Bohème'. My mother was an opera singer"

Stuart Forbes, Age 64, Newcastle

"I've come along with my wife. It's a different night out. We are more cultured than southerners give us credit for"

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas