The UK’s accessible opera houses
21st June 2018
Opera lovers in the UK are truly blessed, as there are so many wonderful venues across the land where spectacular performances can be enjoyed. From world-famous opera houses to small and intimate gems located in the countryside, there’s an awful lot on offer for fans of the art form. Opera fans are also very lucky as there are a great many venues that cater to those with mobility issues. So no matter if you’re someone who uses indoor stairlifts or makes use of walk in accessible baths, there’s no reason why you can’t catch a thrilling show. If you’re unsure of what’s on offer, hopefully, this guide to the UK’s accessible opera houses will help inform you of a few of the very best venues to visit.
Longborough Festival Opera
Image credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
For first-class opera in a truly beautiful setting, Longborough Festival Opera is the place to be. Located in Longborough, Gloucestershire, this intimate theatre houses spectacular performances created specifically for them. The drama on stage perfectly complements that of the surrounding countryside, with performances taking place between June and August. For more about what visitors can expect, Fenner Curtis, a representative of Longborough Festival Opera explained:
“People like coming here for all sorts of reasons, but I think it’s a combination of its location - overlooking a beautiful Cotswold landscape - and world-class performances. The theatre itself is very intimate, with only 500 seats, and has a great story behind it, being built by Martin and Lizzie Graham from a converted barn in the grounds of the family home. It still is very much a family affair, with their daughter Polly taking up the role of Artistic Director this year.
Image credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
“It is entirely privately funded, from the support of members, trusts, and ticket sales. Longborough also has a reputation for putting on Wagner productions. It has been called ‘Britain’s leading Wagner house’ (Opera Now); ‘The English Bayreuth’ (The Oldie); and ‘a magnetic pull for Wagner followers’ (Guardian).”
While admitting that more can always be done to make the venue even more accessible, Longborough stresses the importance of making sure that they are welcoming to everyone. At Longborough Festival Opera, there is disabled access to the front rows of the stalls, with a designated wheelchair space. Two of the boxes are also wheelchair accessible, and there are disabled toilets with plans in place to increase the amount available. The festival’s restaurant is wheelchair accessible and they also have designated disabled parking near the theatre. While most of the paths are grass and gravel, the venue is more than happy for guests to be dropped off at the front of the theatre before parking.
Buxton Opera House
Located in Derbyshire, Buxton Opera House is a splendid venue at which to enjoy a night of opera, with this marvellous old building able to offer an exciting year-round programme of entertainment. This Edwardian Theatre presents a top selection of opera performances included in its 450 shows each year in the mediums of dance, comedy, drama, and musical concerts. The team at Buxton Opera House has gone into detail about what to expect for opera lovers:
“Seeing an opera performance is only half the pleasure at Buxton Opera House as the building is a sight to be seen itself. Designed by Frank Matcham over 100 years ago, the ornate interior sets the scene perfectly for a night at the opera. Allow yourself to be transported back in time to the golden age of theatre and experience an evening such as Puccini might have known.
“As we move into the summer, the Buxton International Festival joins us, bringing a host of opera, music and literary talks. Running concurrently, the Buxton Fringe has comedy, dance, visual arts and theatre. Both festival and fringe cover the whole spectrum of performance/arts and there truly is something for everyone.”
Buxton Opera House also talked to us about the accessibility of the venue: “We welcome all customers at Buxton Opera House and want to make your visit as enjoyable possible. Our beautiful Edwardian building does have some access restrictions due to the nature of the building, but our friendly team is on hand to make your visit as easy as possible. From wheelchair access in the Stalls to refreshments being brought to your seat, there is no reason everyone can’t enjoy our Opera House. For more information on access visit our website.”
A truly idyllic location to enjoy an evening of the very finest opera around is Garsington Opera in the lush, green Chiltern Hills of Buckinghamshire. Performances at Garsington Opera take place in their rather spectacular-looking Opera Pavilion, where performances of enormous artistic quality can be enjoyed. Founded in 1989, the festival at Garsington runs during June and July, with three operas taking place each year. Operas from famous composers such as Mozart are regularly enjoyed, as well as performances of lesser-known but equally powerful works. With thanks also going to the incredibly talented individuals that make up the Garsington Opera Orchestra and Garsington Opera Chorus, this a truly special place to enjoy a show.
Speaking about the fine pleasures of enjoying opera at Garsington, the venue said “The Opera Pavilion is small and intimate with every seat having perfect sightlines. The acoustics are superb and as you sit in your seat it is possible to see out onto the landscape beyond.” Garsington Opera is also an accessible venue, as the team discussed with us here: “There is a short walk from the car park for the disabled to the two lifts that take you up to your seats in the auditorium and there are two excellent areas for wheelchairs. There are lots of charming young staff to help anyone that needs it. There is a long interval during the middle of the evening and patrons have the opportunity of dining in the restaurant overlooking the world famous cricket pitch or picnicking in the grounds of the stunning landscape.”
Image credit: Leigh Simpson
Founded in 1934, Glyndebourne is a picturesque venue that is truly committed to presenting beautiful and talent-rich opera performances to the public. Hosting the Glyndebourne Opera Festival during the summer months and a great collection of concerts and events, when it comes to opera in the UK, Glyndebourne is truly elite. Speaking about Glyndebourne, Donna Marsh, Head of Customer Services and Facilities at Glyndebourne, said:
“Glyndebourne is recognised globally as one of the great opera houses. Our founder John Christie insisted on ‘doing not the best we can do but the best that can be done anywhere’, and we continue to aspire to that high standard in everything we do. As well as enjoying world-class opera, a visit to Glyndebourne is a chance to escape to a truly beautiful part of Sussex. During the Glyndebourne Festival, the grounds open well before the performance and people come for the whole afternoon to explore the grounds, visit our art and archive galleries, have a picnic on the lawn or dine in one of our three restaurants.”
Image credit: Sam Stephenson
Those with mobility issues will also be interested in what Donna had to say about Glyndebourne’s accessibility: “We put a lot of thought and effort into making Glyndebourne as accessible as possible. Steps that we have taken include reserving wheelchair spaces at ground level in our auditorium, offering access parking and installing adapted lavatories. We have a number of wheelchairs on hand for visitors to borrow, as well as golf buggies providing lifts to different parts of the site. Our 1,200 seat auditorium is equipped with a sound enhancement system for audience members requiring hearing support and assistance animals are welcome.
“Recently we have engaged with the Dementia Friends programme and more than 230 Glyndebourne staff members have now had training to gain insight into what it's like to live with dementia and what they can do to turn that understanding into action. We have an excellent team of front of house assistants who are on hand to assist all our visitors and make their experiences as easy and enjoyable as possible.
“And for people who simply can’t get to Glyndebourne in person, for whatever reason, we provide other ways to see our operas such as live cinema screenings and free online broadcasts.”
Nevill Holt Opera
Image credit: Nevill Holt Opera
While only being a fairly new opera venue – its first season being back in 2013 – Nevill Holt Opera has quickly become a premier destination for incredible opera performances, and is a great place to catch growing stars in the operatic space. Located on a historic piece of land, this stately home-turned-opera house, with its panoramic views and award-winning gardens, is home to a top-flight opera festival where guests enjoy drinks, picnicking, and, of course, memorable shows. Past performances have included the likes of Mozart’s beloved ‘The Magic Flute’ and Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’. Nevill Holt Opera has a new theatre opening as of 2018, with an aim of becoming the most uniquely intimate opera house anywhere in the UK. Combining historic elements and natural materials, this 400-seat venue will be entertaining opera lovers for many years to come. While the Nevill Holt gardens contain uneven surfaces, wheelchair seats are available during performances upon request for those with limited mobility, and a golf buggy can also be arranged should guests require a lift from the gate to the theatre.
Royal Opera House
One of the most famous venues in the world, London’s Royal Opera House has to be included in this list, not only for its incredible line-up of shows but also for its accessible nature. This historic venue is respected far and wide and is home to the talented artists of The Royal Opera. The Royal Opera House is a must-visit for their performances of the best traditional opera around, as well as new works from the world’s leading composers. With operas such as Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’ and Puccini’s passionate ‘La bohème’ being just a couple of examples of what’s showing, there’s an awful lot to get excited by. In terms of accessibility, The Royal Opera House encourages those with limited mobility to join the Royal Opera House Access Membership scheme, which helps the venue to meet the accessibility requirements of its visitors, while also offering personalised seat allocation, reduced ticket prices, and complimentary tickets for those who require continued supervision. The main auditorium also contains 19 wheelchair spaces and offers wheelchair access to the bars and restaurant.
Grand Opera House
Located in Northern Ireland, the Grand Opera House is the country’s premier theatre and, along with offering the very best of opera, also presents a first-class programme of drama, dance, comedy, and musicals. A truly world-class theatrical experience, the Grand Opera House takes great pride in raising the profile of local artists while also bringing the very best out of internationally renowned talents from around the world. This venue has been entertaining guests since 1895 and is to this day presenting sublime operas such as the lyrical Russian romance ‘Eugene Onegin’, adapted from Pushkin’s classic novel by the famed composer Tchaikovsky. The Grand Opera House has a great commitment to accessibility and has made their venue truly welcoming considering its age. Offering an Access for All Membership Scheme for those with limited mobility and sensory disabilities, level entrance to the theatre, lifts, accessible toilets, and lowered countertops at its bars, the Grand Opera House can truly be enjoyed by all.
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.