Update – The Sir David Maddison Opera Prize

On Wednesday last September 16th   I chaired a production planning meeting for the 2020 Sir David Maddison Opera Prize, in company with Colonel Martin Amlôt, John Blain, Tanya Robins, and Jack Birley. 

The main topic for discussion was to agree a sound and practical audience management plan for the event, to ensure that HM Government guidelines for social distancing were followed throughout the club, and that stringent hygiene controls were maintained.   

I am pleased to report that a framework was put in place that should, with the cooperation of Proprietors and guests on the night, ensure that safe social distancing be maintained throughout the event, and that measures to maintain hygiene already in place such as hand sanitiser and air hand dryers are sufficient for purpose.

As I write this Merseyside is instructed by Central Government to implement restrictions on socialising due to a local spike in the rate of new COVID 19 infections.  

These new restrictions do not mean that it becomes impossible, nor inappropriate to continue with staging the Opera Prize contest, it may mean however that the event starts earlier in order that any curfew imposed on clubs, pubs, and entertainment venues is complied with.  

Of course the seemingly ever evolving situation with regard to the pandemic will be closely monitored, to ensure that the Athenaeum fully complies with all restrictions currently in force at the time of the Opera Prize event, and that the safety and wellbeing of the clubs membership, and of its staff continue to be of paramount importance.

I am delighted to confirm that COVID 19 restrictions allowing, The 2020 Sir David Maddison Opera Prize will be staged at the Liverpool Athenaeum on the evening of Saturday November 7th with arrivals from 5.30pm, and with the performance commencing at 6pm. 

There will be an interval during which a two-course supper will be served in the Members dining room from 7.15pm, after which attendees will return to the Newsroom for the prize giving and reprise performances of the winner and runner up in the contest.

The stylish trophy and the cash prizes are this year to be presented to the singers by Stephen Riorden QC a lifelong friend of Sir David and Lady Maddison.

Proceedings should close at approximately 9.15pm.

Tickets for the event are in very limited supply due to social distancing considerations and are available to reserve with immediate effect through the usual club events booking facility.

Due to the limited supply of tickets I urge Proprietors and those wishing to reserve tickets to only do so if they are definitely intending to attend the Opera Prize contest.      

Proprietors and their guests are requested to observe the following procedures throughout the evening of November the 7th.

You will be met on arrival at the Athenaeum main entrance by Club Secretary Jack Birley, you will be asked to conduct a temperature check, and any guests who are non-members will be required to provide track and trace information in advance of the evening. 

Staff will be on hand to help facilitate your safe passage whilst social distancing, via the temporary cloakroom and up the spiral staircase to the Newsroom.  You will then be asked to take your reserved seat immediately and to maintain social distancing, after which a welcome drink of champagne will be served to you by a member of staff.      

We ask you to please remain in your allocated seat until the performance interval, (unless requiring to use the toilet facilities) whereupon Athenaeum staff will ask members to make their way upstairs to the members dining room in a controlled table by table manner, thus maintaining social distancing.

Following the meal, attendees will be asked by staff to make their way back to Newsroom in a controlled table by table manner, and then proceed back to their allocated seats in the Newsroom for the second half of the evening’s performance.  

Proprietors and guests will be bid farewell by the Club Secretary as from 9:15pm, with the club closing for the night by 10:00pm.

I am confident that if everyone concerned is kind and responsible enough to follow the procedures the event will pass as successfully as the inaugural Sir David Maddison Opera Prize contest last year, and with everyone kept at safe social distancing.

We are indebted this year to the generosity of several Athenaeum Proprietors for very kindly sponsoring the event, HH Judge David Hodges QC, David Holdsworth Esq, John Blain, and former Club Presidents Hilary Gatenby, and Michael Shankland.   With myself sponsoring the Opera prize trophy, and the Singers travel expenses.

The judging panel for the contest will be chaired by Proprietor Lee Ward who is Director of Music at Liverpool Cathedral, who will be joined by the renowned tenor Nick Hardy, and lifelong opera aficionado Tanya Robins.

This contest promises to surpass last years, with not just five but six top class singers who are most definitely the Opera stars of the future.   The choice of repertoire is eclectic and is drawn from the shows, as well as mainstream Opera.  

Last year’s contest winner Molly Barker sang one of my favourite arias and brought the house to their feet, and this year one of the contestants has obliged by including another one of my personal favourites, the hauntingly beautiful O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi, https://youtu.be/Sf-tjXevlyQ here sung by Renee Fleming.  

For those not fortunate enough to obtain tickets for this year’s contest, we are hoping to record the evening’s performance and publish on YouTube, so that not only are you able to watch

the recording at your leisure, but others also, thus providing a valuable opportunity to publicise the Athenaeum, and just one of the many benefits of membership.

There now follows photo images and biographies of the RNCM Students contesting for this year’s Sir David Maddison Opera Prize, and also, of the very accomplished concert pianist whom I have been fortunate to have retained to accompany the contestants on the Athenaeum Kemble. These can be found here https://theathenaeum.org.uk/event/sir-david-maddison-opera-prize-2020/.        

My warmest wishes to all, and rest assured that the contest will go on, unless government restrictions expressly forbid the club to stage the contest.         

David J Cox   

Producer of Opera at the Athenaeum, and The Sir David Maddison Opera Prize.