He is best known for playing slippery special adviser Ollie Reeder in political satire The Thick of It, but comedian Chris Addison will look to hit a different note when he brings his talents to the Royal Opera House for the first time.
Addison is to star in a new production of 19th Century French comic opera L’Etoile, which opens next month. But the Opera House tenors need not fear for their jobs, as his specially-written role does not demand any singing.
The actor and writer hopes fans of his TV work who have never been to Covent Garden will be tempted to visit and discover the art form is not “exclusive, impenetrable and super posh”.
“Those clichés can be very off-putting,” he told The Independent. “Truth is though, that you can go to the Royal Opera House for less money than you could go to see Arsenal or Michael McIntyre or U2 and those things aren’t ever said to be exclusive.”
The comedian, who has also appeared on panel shows including Mock the Week, Have I Got News for You and QI, said the at their cheapest, tickets for L’Etoile will be four times less expensive than the cheapest at Premier League football club Arsenal. “And you’re not sitting behind someone waving a home-made banner during all the good bits,” he joked.
It is the first time that L’Etoile will be performed at Covent Garden, and Addison says the “gloriously, joyfully silly” production offers a great first taste of opera for the uninitiated. As well as boasting “fantastic tunes”, the production is “short enough to get plenty of time in the pub after”, he says.
Addison, 44, will take a non-singing role in the opera – “as the Royal Opera House do have some standards” – but is passionate about singing. He performs in a choir and is a big fan of karaoke.
Chris Addison in 'The Thick of It' (video contains strong language)
He is taking one of two roles director Mariame Clément has created for her production of Emmanuel Chabrier’s comic opera, alongside French actor Jean-Luc Vincent. The pair will provide a bickering commentary to the singers.
“Smith and Dupont are two characters who begin outside the opera, observing it like the audience, and then slowly get drawn into the madness,” Addison said. The two comic actors are there to “add to the general craziness of this already especially loopy opera.”
Addison said he has been a fan of opera “for years” and last autumn wrote an article in defence of Glyndebourne, which he described as “England’s foremost opera house-cum-picnic area”.
That piece “seemed to get a number of people in the opera world faintly excited, as often happens when idiots from my ring of the circus unexpectedly voice an interest in this side of the arts,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that must be why the Royal Opera suggested me to Mariame.”
The Opera House described L’Etoile as an “anarchically comic fairytale with a ridiculous plot and darkly humorous twists and turns”.
He follows Dawn French as the most recent comedian to perform on the Covent Garden stage. French played the role of La Duchesse de Crackentorp in La Fille du Regiment first in 2007 and then three years later, also in a non-singing role.
It was largely praised by the critics, although the Financial Times said: “It might have been funnier if she had actually tried to sing.”
Whether his new role could spark a trend among comedians joining operatic productions, Addison said: “Hmm. One every six years. Quite some trend.”