Yarmouth prepares to host opera

It normally reverberates to the sounds of rock 'n' roll, but next month the more refined notes of opera will ring out across Yarmouth's historic hippodrome for the first time.

It normally reverberates to the sounds of rock 'n' roll, but next month the more refined notes of opera will ring out across Yarmouth's historic hippodrome for the first time.

A touring company is bringing their acclaimed production of The Fairy Queen to the listed venue - which is more used to circus and vaudeville acts - as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

The theatre, which was built 1903, has played host to escape artist the Great Houdini, music hall legend Lilly Langtry and risqué comic Max Miller during its illustrious history.

But the work of composer Henry Purcell has until now been a stranger to the 104-year-old building.

The Fairy Queen is based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Hippodrome production is influenced by the 19th-century artist Richard Dadd, who painted Shakespearean fantasies while detained in Bedlam Hospital.

The production will use trapeze artists and acrobats to recreate the chaotic interior of the notorious psychiatric asylum.

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"It is a match made in heaven," said festival director Jonathan Holloway.

"Last year, the festival team went en masse to see the summer show at the Yarmouth Hippodrome, and we all fell in love with the place. We wanted to take a festival production to the Hippodrome," he said.

Buses are to be arranged to take people on May 9 from the Playhouse in Norwich to the Hippodrome to see the Armonico Touring Opera's surreal version of Purcell's 1962 opera.

Impresario and hippodrome owner Peter Jay added: "This is a first for Yarmouth. We want to try all sorts of shows and we hope the festival will come back again next year."

And he said he hoped more venues in the town would get involved with the Norfolk and Norwich festival, which runs from May 4 to May 19.

For a brochure with full listings of all the events, call 01603 877750 or visit www.nnfestival.org.uk To book tickets, call the box office on 01603 766400.