What’s the point of pop-up opera?

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The enthusiasm of singers who perform pop-up opera is great - but is there any point to it, asks Rupert Christiansen.

Opera’s resilience is nowhere more evident that in its current habit of popping up in pub theatres, abandoned warehouses and back gardens, staged and performed by people doing it for love rather than the minimum wage (if that).

Budgets for these shows are minuscule: sets and costumes are hempen homespun, the orchestration reduced to a piano trio, and the singers largely recent graduates desperate to secure a foothold on a slippery professional ladder. The Arts Council gives them no money and they are reliant on donations from private individuals to make up what they cannot milk from the boxoffice takings. Their efforts draw small but loyal audiences, usually very appreciative, and you might say at the very worst, that no harm is done.

But for the critic these pop-up performances pose a quandary: how can ...

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