Canal Street Online Manchester

Chris Park met The Opera Boys

Chris Park met The Opera Boys

Always thought opera was a bit inaccessible and not for you? Think again, The Opera Boys are here to change all that. Rob, Colin, Michael and Richard are currently touring the nation, mixing opera classics with modern hits to form a stage show that will make you laugh and cry.

Not only that they bring their act to weddings where they go undercover as waiters before bursting into song and shocking the room.

Canal St’s Chris Park spoke to Rob Cherry about how this all happened, their dreams and what a tough life it is performing on cruise ships (be warned, you will be jealous)

How did the Opera Boys come about?

It started with myself and Richard, he’s the little fella. He and I worked together on a corporate gig years ago and the story we tell is that we hated each other and it never got any better than that (laughs). The truth is we had a mutual love for this music and also had a similar sense of humour. That is where the notion came from that we could perform the operatic and classical music that we love but with a laid back theme running through it. There is a bit of a preconception that opera is boring and stuffy and if you’re going to listen to opera you’re going to listen to people barking in Italian at you for four hours.

We wanted to get away from that. Some of the old operatic stuff is quite funny and silly and we wanted to take that side of it back and make it a bit more accessible. 

We’ve ended up with a show that is full of beautiful music and is emotional in parts but it is a very light hearted, entertaining kind of show for the opera lovers that come and have a good time but also for the people who are not traditionally lovers of classical music who can come and listen to this music and have a good time as well. 

We do deliver it with a wink and a smile. We’re good mates. We’ve been touring together for seven years and have fun on stage and in turn the audience have a lot of fun with us and we encourage that, we encourage them to sing and clap along and get on stage with us when appropriate.

How many opera boys are there?

There is a core four of us. We have other guys who come in and out when needed. A lot of the guys have done the West End and Broadway as well and have that career running alongside. Sometimes one of the lads will choose to go into a show for six months or twelve months.

Do you do any solo stuff?

I don’t anymore. I did for years but I am full time on The Opera Boys now, I do the scheduling and promotion. I don’t really envy the guys who jump in and out and especially being on the audition treadmill. It was nice when I was younger but I love this show. We make our own schedule and choose the songs. We don’t have to do what we’re told. They do say if you love what you do you never work a day again in your life.

How is the tour going?

It is going great. We started at the beginning of February and did nine shows in twelve days. We have put some new material in there, of course we rehearse beforehand but you never know what the reaction will be until you play it live. 

We live a very anti-rock n roll life, it’s all coffee and crosswords on the road. 

Is cruising as glamourous as Jane McDonald would have us believe?

I’m afraid it probably is. 

It’s a pretty good way to make a living, we’re very lucky. In between tour stints we jump on and off cruise ships. They’re great. 

If you’ve never been on one or you’ve never seen Jane McDonald on TV, you think of little cabaret lounges with a stage in the corner, but some ships have giant one thousand seater theatres with live orchestra. We do the Queen Mary 2 on a semi regular basis and we were on there for the 10th anniversary and that has a 1200 seater. It is a mini London Palladium It is incredible. 

We go on as passengers, we don’t sign on the crew list and live down in the dungeons, we get state rooms and get to eat in the restaurants and drink in the bars. For a week we might only perform one or two nights so the rest of the time is sitting in Jacuzzis drinking champagne. 

Cunard is very LGBT friendly, we have a big LGBT following who will have a drink with us after the show and very often they will come and see the shows around the UK.

What is like serenading at weddings?

We get some great reactions. Sometimes the bride and groom will book us or it might be the father or the mother of the bride or the groom’s parents who book us. It can go either way. It is great fun to see their faces when we suddenly burst into it.

Who has the final say on the set list?

I guess I probably get the final say, since the other lads aren’t here I can say that can’t I? 

We’re fairly democratic though. We talk about songs that we could or should do and we put them in. There are songs that we can’t not to do like Nessum Dorma, it’s nearly always what we close the show with or Bring Him Home from Les Miserables, Michael spent time in Les Mis in the West End so it’s close to his heart and people expect that from us.

40/50% we feel like we can’t remove but the rest we can refresh every year. We put Ed Sheerin’s Perfect in this year and he did it as a duet with Andre Bocelli and called it Perfect Symphony and it’s half English half Italian so we put that in this year. It’s current but it has a link back to the classical side. Mostly it is a combined decision. We’re always listening for things that we think would work.

Do you have any other goals for Opera Boys?

The ambition is to maintain this and keep it going. Michael was part of Belgium’s Eurovision entry in 2015, I guess it’s always in the back of our minds that we’d like to do it as the Opera Boys, that would be pretty cool. It’s difficult to get into so I don’t know if we’d ever get the opportunity.

Who would you loved to have performed with?

Pavarotti – he is the guy we credit with re-popularising this music. Everybody remembers Italia 90 but people don’t realise he was frowned upon by the operatic world for doing that but he did it anyway. Without that there would be no Three Tenors, Il Divo and of course there would be no Opera Boys. 

The Opera Boys are currently on tour up and down the country. For more information please visit below

By Chris Park for Canal St Online

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Published: 11-Mar-2019

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