From community opera to the Glyndebourne Festival

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Three singers from the South East who earlier this year took part in a community opera at Glyndebourne will return to the opera house this month to perform in the world-famous Glyndebourne Festival.

Fiona Alsop, Matthew Tweddle and Darren Harker will appear in a new production of the opera Aridane auf Naxos by composer Richard Strauss which opens this year’s Glyndebourne Festival on Saturday 18 May.

They will perform alongside some of opera’s most celebrated stars including Russian conductor Vladimir Juroswki, English baritone Sir Thomas Allen and Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski.

In March 2013 the three singers appeared in Imago, a full-scale opera performed on the main stage at Glyndebourne which featured a community cast of 100 amateur performers recruited via open auditions from across the south east. The purpose of the project was to develop existing talent within the local community. Participants ranged in age from teenagers to those in their 70s and performed alongside professionals on stage and in the orchestra pit.

Now three of the participants are delighted to be returning to Glyndebourne in a professional capacity. Fiona Alsop, 51, from Portsmouth, said: “Being part of Imago was an incredible experience. I came to singing relatively late in life and having had no real musical education, I thought it would be way out of my league, so to now be performing in Glyndebourne Festival, where so many wonderful artists have appeared over the years is just amazing. It’s a fantastic privilege to be in rehearsals watching the production take shape and to experience life as a professional.”

Matthew Tweddle, 18, from Burgess Hill, is a member of National Youth Theatre and currently auditioning for drama school. He said: “It’s my ambition to be a full-time performer so being involved in Imago was a great opportunity to learn what it’s like to be part of a large-scale production. Although it was a community opera, we were treated like professionals which was the perfect grounding for being part of Glyndebourne Festival. This experience will really help me as I move forward in pursuing my career.”

Darren Harker, 40, from Lewes, said: “Living in Lewes means we have Glyndebourne right on our doorstep and every summer we see people arrive from all around the world for the Glyndebourne Festival. When the opportunity to audition for Imago came up it seemed too good to miss but I don’t think any of us expected that it might lead to an appearance at the Festival itself. It’s incredibly exciting.”

Glyndebourne will offer an exclusive free streaming of Imago to celebrate European Opera Days 2013 on 11 and 12 May 2013.