Opera Prelude: Have you ever wanted to learn more about opera?

About eight years ago I was introduced to Fiona Hamilton and we hit it off immediately. We had a mutual love of animals and the countryside, she and her husband live locally to Henley-on-Thames. We were also both still working. Annabel & Grace was then known as CountryWives and was still very young and Fiona’s charity, Opera Prelude, was about the same age.


We used to meet and chat about the growth of social media, the lack of good wifi in the country, and trying to get the older generation to embrace the internet as a way of communication. Both Opera Prelude and Annabel & Grace have had to embrace modern technology and have grown at a pace. So I felt with lockdown over, but still unable to meet in large gatherings it was a good time to introduce the A&G readers to this very special charity, Opera Prelude who are ‘Keeping opera alive in the digital age’.

Opera Prelude exists because of how tough it can be for young singers in the early stages of their careers. Fiona and her business partner, Adriana Festeu, realised there was a niche to, not only give financial and mental support to young, talented, opera singers, but also to arrange recitals and lectures for them whilst they trained so that they could still earn money and, of course, perform in front of a live audience.

Lockdown has been very challenging for all the performing arts and they have had to apply their creative minds to finding other ways to communicate with their audience. Opera Prelude has not baulked at the enormity of the challenge of the past few months and has created a series of online lectures for all to enjoy.

Up until lockdown these lectures were performed either in various London venues or more locally to me, Christ Church, Henley-on-Thames. I wanted to support Fiona’s charity so over the past 8 years I have attended many of these lectures. I have learned so much and realise I have much still to learn. I came to them with a very ‘popularised’ appreciation of opera but Fiona’s own passion for this art inspired me to learn more.

You too can now listen and enjoy these lectures whether you live in the Isle of Skye or sunny Sandiego. Opera Prelude only ask if you can make a small contribution, £4 or more, to enable these passionate and charismatic young people to continue to share their talents with all of us.

However this isn’t just about supporting a charity. In my and my husband’s experience the listener gets as much out of this as the performers, in learning and appreciating about opera at whatever level you choose to do so.

There are so many lectures to choose from with an Autumn programme scheduled that also includes an insight into the lives of the professionals e.g.

COMING 15 SEPTEMBER: Roderick Williams OBE in conversation with Jevan McAuley


There are also Lunchtime Arias available on the Opera Prelude website performed by some of the Opera Prelude artistes. My particular favourite is – Shengzhi Ren: Pourquoi me réveiller by Massenet from Werther. Shengzhi has been in isolation in China so this is a recording he made over there but he is a star in the ascendency so watch out for this young Tenor’s future career.

Listen to my chat with Fiona in the podcast below and find out more about the lectures and all the wonderful work that Opera Prelude is doing.