Preview: Grimebourne Festival, Arcola Theatre, Dalston

Magic Flute is one of the shows at the festival

Magic Flute is one of the shows at the festival - Credit: Archant

A festival bringing opera to the masses is set to showcase ­anything from cutting-edge ­reworks of Mozart’s masterpieces to ground-breaking modern productions this month.

The Grimeborn Festival, which opened last week at Dalston’s Arcola Theatre, will run throughout ­August and boasts 14 new productions which not only include small-scale versions of traditional ­classics, but also pioneering productions conceived by the wave of up-and -coming young opera producers.

It’s the seventh festival of its kind at the venue in Ashwin Street – well regarded for its theatrical innovation – and its name is a humorous reference to the famous Glyndebourne Opera Season, where 1,200 high-spending opera goers in full evening dress picnic in the gardens of Glyndebourne House before ­sitting down to watch expensive productions.

Grimeborn– in which all operas are performed in English – was the brainchild of the Arcola Theatre’s artistic director Mehmet Ergen, who had previously worked at the Battersea Arts Centre where a similar opera showcase used to take place before it was ended.

He said: “If you love opera, Grimeborn is definitely the place to see and hear – often for the very first time – the opera stars of tomorrow and the work of exciting new composers.”

This year, the theatre was so ­inundated with companies wanting to perform their new shows that it has decided to expand across both of its 200 and 100 seat studios.

Arcola executive producer Leyla Nazli said: “The festival is all about giving chances to young composers and young directors to find their work and, in a way, meet each other. They can perform the operas and then know they can cope with the bigger venues.

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“It’s also a platform for many amazing opera singers who are ­perhaps not yet in a position to sing elsewhere yet, and it’s opera festivals like Grimeborn which give them the chances to try.”

Grimeborn has built up a strong following, which Leyla says is ­reflective of a growing and far more modern opera scene here in the UK.

She said: “I think Grimeborn – and festivals like Tête à Tête and the King’s Head Opera Up Close have opened up opera and made it quite popular.

“We brought opera into small scale studios, and most of the acts performing at Grimeborn now go onto the Edinburgh Festival.”

Leyla continued: “It’s received ­really well because the name is not very pretentious and it doesn’t ­exclude the people who would not usually get access to opera. Opera can scare people off – but our name is funny and funky, and everyone knows the Arcola is at the forefront of cutting edge theatre.

“I think especially for the new ­operas our audiences are young, trendy people and for the more ­traditional productions it’s a bit more diverse.”

And, ultimately, it’s the audiences that are at the centre of what the festival is all about.

“The most important thing is we’re making the festival accessible to all sorts of people,” added Leyla.

Tickets start at £15 (£12 concessions).

For full listings and more info about the festival visit or call the box office on 020 7503 1646.