Bad as the old days were, the days of the Opera Studio and the Garden Venture were even worse. All that nurturing and nurse-maiding of wannabe opera composers and would-be librettists in hot-house conditions, and nothing to show for it but a few stunted experiments in a doomed hybrid form, the 20-minute music drama.
Meanwhile, the training has always been there for those who wanted it. Like Jonathan Dove, who learnt his craft the old-fashioned way - coaching singers and getting to know the repertoire, and the inner workings of an opera house, as a Glyndebourne repetiteur; anatomising the bowels of Mozart, Verdi and Wagner by reorchestrating their scores for the reduced resources of Graham Vick's City of Birmingham Touring Opera; catering to all comers and all abilities at the cutting-edge of community opera; underscoring genuinely theatrical performances such as Diana Rigg's in her Broadway-storming Medea.
All of which raises expectations for tonight's premiere of Siren Song (right), his first full-length opera, based on the bizarre true-life story of a sailor's year-long passion for a phantom pen-pal.
'Siren Song' opens 8pm tonight, Almeida Theatre, N1 (071-359 4404), then 17, 19, 22, 23 Jul
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