Covent Garden takes opera to football fans

Tom Peck
Monday 03 May 2010 00:00
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Football fans have been among the most dedicated appreciators of opera. Every weekend, all over the country, scarcely a game passes without the assembled masses erupting into a lyrically reworked version of one of the higher art's catchier arias.
Football fans have been among the most dedicated appreciators of opera. Every weekend, all over the country, scarcely a game passes without the assembled masses erupting into a lyrically reworked version of one of the higher art's catchier arias.

Football fans have been among the most dedicated appreciators of opera. Every weekend, all over the country, scarcely a game passes without the assembled masses erupting into a lyrically reworked version of one of the higher art's catchier arias.

When West Ham fans chant "Paolo di Can-i-o" for example, it is at least partly in homage to the genius of Giuseppe Verdi's "La dona è mobile", which provides the original tune.

This summer, however, the roles will be reversed when, in an effort to shake off opera's "posh" image, singers at the Royal Opera House will perform a number of the football terraces' most famous refrains.

Among a trio of "Opera Shots" – short operas lasting less than half an hour – in this year's summer season will be Jocelyn Pook's Ingerland. The libretto enlists Millwall Football Club's classic: "No One Likes Us, We Don't Care", Liverpool's favourite, "Steve Gerrard, Gerrard, He's Big and He's Fucking Hard", not to mention a chorus of WAGs deliberating over whether or not to undergo cosmetic surgery.

Another of the three commissions is from the musician Nitin Sawhney, who researched calculus and quantum physics for his Entanglement, a short opera, based on a pregnancy test.

The performances in June include video interviews with supporters at leading football grounds visited by Pook, a composer and musician whose past work includes a joint piece for the Proms with the former poet laureate Andrew Motion.

The third "shot" is by Orlando Gough, whose short television opera The Mathematics of a Kiss was broadcast in 1989.

John Lloyd Davies, the head of opera development at the Royal Opera House, said that he was after work which would "shake things up" and extend the appeal of opera to a new audience.

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