Blur’s Damon Albarn wants you to see more opera

Blur's Damon Albarn, left, and director Rufus Norris introduce the English National Opera's "Undress for Opera" program in London.
(Justin Tallis / AFP/Getty Images)

Damon Albarn continues to take on projects other than plotting a U.S. tour for intermittently reunited Brit-pop band Blur.

In London on Wednesday, the artist unveiled a new program designed to bring new audiences to the opera. The English National Opera initiative, dubbed “Undress for Opera,” designates four performances -- one each of “Don Giovanni,” “La Traviata,” “Sunken Garden” and “The Perfect American” -- to be a more casual, affordable night out.

Albarn in 2012 released the pastoral, languid “Dr. Dee,” his soundtrack to a pop-opera from director Rufus Norris -- but don’t necessarily call it an opera.

“I struggle with the word ‘opera’ because it’s quite clear that I’m sort of swimming in deep water when I ever mention that word.” Albarn said at the London news conference.


As part of the program, about 100 of the best seats for each show, will be discounted to 25 pounds (about $40), Reuters reported. About 30% of the English National Opera audience is under the age of 44, according to the BBC.

“Our aim is to increase the figure to at least 40%,” English National Opera artistic director John Berry said at the news conference.

Though such programs often focus on bringing “young people” to the theater, the words “young people” can often be replaced with, say, “people who have to buy groceries.”

Tickets to the opera aren’t cheap. In Los Angeles, seats in the last row of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s top balcony cost $50 for October’s “Don Giovanni.” The best seats in the house go for $276.

Director Terry Gilliam, also a supporter of the “Undress for Opera” program, acknowledged such a perception to Reuters. “It was an art for the rich and the successful and the almost dead,” he said of how he once viewed the opera.


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