LONDON — A Python and the founder of Gorillaz are trying to help opera shed its stuffy image.
Monty Python's Terry Gilliam and Blur and Gorillaz singer Damon Albarn are supporting a plan by the English National Opera to entice new and younger audience members with the promise of casual clothes, cheap tickets and cocktails.
Albarn's operatic show "Dr Dee" was performed at the ENO's London home earlier this year, and the company says 60 percent of audience members had never attended an opera before.
It hopes to attract more newcomers with its "Undress for the Opera" initiative, which reassures operagoers that it's OK to dress as they like, even if that means — gasp — jeans.
The company also will make 100 top tickets at certain performances available for 25 pounds ($40), as part of a package that includes an introductory talk, an information guide and a post-show party, complete with themed cocktails.
The goal, Gilliam said in a filmed promo, is to dispel the notion that opera is "art for the rich, the successful and the almost dead."
It is the latest innovative initiative from ENO, which has already offered audiences 3-D cinema broadcasts and an opera about the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Albarn, frontman of 1990s Britpop icons Blur and cartoon band Gorillaz, said Wednesday that he hopes perceptions of opera as stuffy and expensive will change in the same way as "a lot of ideas about world music."
"We're carrying into this century a lot of ideas that belong to a previous generation," said Albarn, who has worked extensively with musicians from Africa.
Albarn, who also wrote the Chinese fable-inspired stage musical "Monkey: Journey to the West," said he has an idea for another opera project, though he wasn't ready to give details.
He said he was reluctant to call his stage works "proper" operas — though he aspired to write one someday.
The musician said he appreciated working with opera companies for "the opportunity to experiment and to learn."
"I'm quite clearly not someone who had any formal opera education," Albarn said. "I was too busy jumping up and down on stages around the world when I should have been at college completing my classical music education."
English National Opera: http://www.eno.org/
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