Some people see opera as dark, elitist, an acquired taste. Strange, given the continuing popularity of many individual operatic songs.
Yes, the plots are frequently melodramatic.
Sure, the characters are often larger than life, seemingly at the mercy of their passionate emotions.
And certainly the sight of frustrated lovers belting forth their sweet nothings or deathbed arias at full volume, can occasionally seem a bit, well, OTT.
But suspend your disbelief, or better still, immerse yourself in the sumptuous richness of the operatic experience, and you will discover a vast array of some of the most sublime and powerful music in the classical repertoire.
So the bold decision of the highly respected Angmering Chorale to offer a selection of no less than twenty of the most popular operatic choral pieces in a concert hall-like setting - this was an opportunity not to be ignored by the hundreds who flocked to The Angmering School last weekend.
Without the distractions of greasepaint, plunging cleavages, exotic costumes and lavish scenery, they offered a rare opportunity to concentrate on the music. I willingly parted with my £10 entry fee - for twenty full choral pieces that’s equivalent to only fifty pence a piece! I hoped I had bought a bargain.
I was not disappointed.
Alas, space does not permit me to comment upon each of the pieces on offer, but let me assure you, Angmering Chorale more than did justice to the ambitious programme. From the grandeur of Wagner (Tannhauser and Lohengrin) through the evocative Habenera and dramatic March of the Toreadors (Carmen), the exciting abandon of Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, to the gently bewitching Dido’s Lament (Purcell), the Chorale handled the varied, challenging demands with aplomb, switching effortlessly from mood to mood.
Under the energetic baton of their popular musical director, George Jones, whose short introductory links to each piece both entertained and informed us, they revelled in a great selection of popular masterpieces – including several by Verdi, my personal favourite, finishing with his famously rousing Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore. Throughout, the enthusiasm and sheer joy of the group could not fail to impress.
Instrumental backup of the highest quality was provided by Alison Manton and Michael James on one shared piano, both displaying quite astonishing versatility, and the several solo parts were all beautifully sung by individual members of the Chorale with particular mention of Mark Kendall, Rachel Kerwick, Katie Macdonald and Katrina O’Neill.
Particular credit is also due to the Tenors and Basses, who performed throughout with power and gusto, in spite of being seriously challenged numerically. If there are any folk out there who have entertained, however briefly, the possibility of joining a singing group of quality, I recommend you try the Angmering Chorale. You will find a hugely talented, friendly and versatile group, equally welcoming experienced and beginners alike.
Altogether, this was a wonderful evening, especially for those seeking to acquire the operatic taste.
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