03 December 2019Review of Christmas Backstage at the Opera 29th November 2019
18 November 2019Review of Welsh Architectural Eccentricities Study Day 15th November 2019
31 October 2019Review of 'Last Supper in Pompeii' 28th October 2019
06 October 2019Review of visit to Watts Gallery on 1st October 2019
27 September 2019In Memory of Chris Gulliver, our Vice Chairman
27 September 2019Review of 'Les Parisiennes' lecture on 23rd September 2019
27 September 2019AGM - new committee members elected
02 August 2019Review of 'Art of Grayson Perry' lecture on 25th July 2019
24 July 2019Church Recording of St James’ Finchampstead
05 July 2019Review of Mexican Study Day July 2019
01 July 2019Review of 'The History of Wallpaper' lecture on 27th June 2019
01 July 2019Review of visit to Greenwich June 2019
01 June 2019Review of 'Photography as Fine Art' lecture on 23rd May 2019
23 May 2019Review of Hidden Reading walk May 2019
30 April 2019Review of 'Florentine Disegno versus Venetian Colorito' lecture on 25th April 2019
04 April 2019Review of 'Captain Cook – Art and Exploration Extraordinaire' lecture on 28th March 2019
22 March 2019Review of 'The Image of the Annunciation' Study Day 13th March 2019
07 March 2019Review of 'Passion and Rivalry – Mantegna and Bellini' lecture on 28th February 2019
31 January 2019Review of 'Still Searching for the Queen of Sheba' lecture on January 24th 2019
31 January 2019Lectures to take place on Monday evenings from Sept. 2019
13 October 2018Winning entry of the Service the Others category - Love Wokingham Photographic Competition
21 September 2018AGM - new committee members elected
31 May 2018May 2018 Bulletin - Newbold Church
30 April 2018April 2018 Bulletin
20 October 2016Clifton Ingram Partnership Press Release October 2016
02 June 2015Venue Change for 2015-2016 Lecture Programme.
05 May 2015Michael Shirley elected to NADFAS Trustee Board
29 July 2014Introductory Lecture

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Review of Christmas Backstage at the Opera 29th November 2019
Tuesday 03 December 2019

Christmas Backstage at the Opera

'Sarah gave an outstanding lecture about Christmas at the Royal Opera House. She was entertaining and informative; her lecture was a ‘tour de force’ including ballet and opera video footage and interviews with many members of the company, all of which provided us with a vivid insight into the busy but ‘special’ Christmas season in Covent Garden. A very enjoyable evening, thank you.’

Sarah Lenton has spent her working life in and around the theatre, working at the Royal Opera House, the English National Opera and Glynbourne; she continues to work in this exotic world writing and directing opera, presenting live broadcasts and podcasts for the BBC. It is a world she knows and which she shared with us.

For all the company at the Royal Opera House and for us, its audience, Christmas is special! But how do they cope? From the start it was obvious that it is working together as a company which is vital.

There will be 24 performances of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, in which 13 different dancers will play the Prince, and there will be 15 Sugar Plum fairies!

The area backstage is huge, a working area in which the scenery is stored, moved into position and off stage, stuff ‘flies’ and all the singers, dancers and crew create the magic of the performance. The set for The Nutcracker is 30 years old, it is fragile and is treated with great care. The centre of the set is the Christmas Tree which moves up and down on its own lift – all part of the illusion!

The stage manager has to bring all the pieces and people together, seamlessly. She has a traffic light system to bring in the traps, the lights, scene changes, flies and people.

The dancers are usually ready in plenty of time, they are ready to perform. This is not always true of the singers they often wait in their dressing rooms and often need cues to get them into position!

Sarah also took us behind the scenes to the rehearsal room to see the history and the development of the performance.

We saw a video of dancers working on a performance of The Sleeping Beauty, working with performers who had previously danced the roles – Monica Mason (Princess Aurora) and Darcie Bussell (Lilac Fairy). The physical gestures and movements in a classical ballet often go back in time, in the case of The Sleeping Beauty to 1888, building on the performances of the past greats in the roles.

Opera too has a developmental phase where, as a new performance comes together, techniques are passed on and acting skills enhanced as roles are interpreted.

But to concentrate only on the dancers and singers would be to under value this company. It is world class due to the coming together of all its people, working together with a shared purpose. Sarah finished with a video showing a set change from a morning rehearsal of an opera, ready for an evening performance of a ballet – an everyday occurrence. We were in awe!

Encore! And for some of us the lecture was an introduction which was followed by The Arts Society Wokingham’s visit to The Royal Opera House.

Our next lecture, Rembrandt and Vermeer: Titans of the Golden Age of Dutch Art by Lucrezia Walker will be held on Monday January 27th Newbold Church, St Marks Road, Binfield, RG42 4AN, commencing at 7.45pm. Do come and join us. Visitor Fee: £8.

To find out more about The Arts Society check out our website,

In the meantime - Seasons Greetings to All.