Former child opera star merges improvisational comedy and opera
David Pearl, creative director of improv opera comedy troupe Impropera, talks about songs, laughter and unlocking the creativity of big business.
DAVID Pearl likes to joke that he has taken two of the least watched theatre forms and put them together.
The youthful 50-year-old is the driving force behind Impropera, a comedy troupe that combines virtuoso opera singing with quick-witted improvisation.
The six-piece is made up of professional singers, comedians, a pianist and a clarinet player, and their credits range from the English National Opera to TV’s Whose Line Is It Anyway?
David, of Ashmount Road, Archway, said: “We have an opera background and as part of that, we used improvisation as a technique to loosen up as performers. We were making up operas in rehearsals, so I thought maybe audiences would like to see this – and it turns out they do.”
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Impropera’s shows are a surreal ride through a world conjured up on the spot from ideas thrown at them by the audience.
“It’s the simplest suggestions that work the best,” he said. “We try to ask people to bring up things from their lives – advice their parents gave them, or chat up lines they have used. Opera can be a bit pompous, but it makes it something people can relate to.”
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He added: “It’s quite clear we have no idea what’s coming next. The audience enjoy it mostly because they are relieved it’s not them on stage, having to sing and improvise in public.”
He began his opera career at the Royal Opera House in 1970 at the age of nine, performing alongside Placido Domingo in Puccini’s Tosca, in what was also the great tenor’s debut at the famous Covent Garden opera house.
“I started right at the top and worked my way down,” he said.
He went on to work with the Kent Opera and the New Sadler’s Wells Opera, at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, in Rosebery Avenue, Finsbury, before founding Opera Circus in the early 1990s, which was another fusion group, bringing together opera and physical performance.
Around the same time, he took on a second job running a serenading service – after he was hired to serenade a friend of a friend, who would become his wife.
He said: “I was sent to sing under my wife’s window before I knew her. She came down to kiss me and I never left.
“We set up a serenading service, which caught on like wildfire. I sang on GMTV, serenaded Judy Finnigan on Richard and Judy, the wife of Sting - and sang on the orders of the Russian mafia.”
David now has a day job as a jet-setting pioneer of something called “experience engineering” - advising executives at top law firms, consultancies and companies such as Philips and GlaxoSmithKline on creativity. This line of work has seen him help 1,500 executives to be more creative by putting on their own opera.
He added: “I go round the world advising people on how to make their meetings more interesting – to treat them as a stage and make them not totally boring.”
Something that is never a problem for the madcap Impropera crew.
- A special Valentine’s Day show, Impropera’s Love In, takes place at Kings Place, in York Way, King’s Cross, tomorrow (Thursday 10) at 8pm.