If you’re looking for a meal out with a difference, then Bel Canto certainly is just that! Dine on beautifully hand-crafted French Cuisine, whilst enjoying a full evening of Opera performed by a quartet of professionally trained singers accompanied by music from a live pianist. With a troupe of 60 performers on rotation, each night is different but sure to bring lasting memories. So whether you’re looking for the ideal gift for an opera fan, or are completely new to the genre – this is a unique experience, not to be missed! Here’s what happened when I went along to check it out…
On the warm spring evening of Thursday 9th April, 2015, I was invited along to experience a night of Opera, at Bel Canto in London. With a name which literally translates as “Beautiful singing” in Italian, it certainly had a lot of expectations to live up to.
Having never been to an opera before – or indeed a dinner-show type of event – I had no idea what to expect, and wasn’t even sure if this was my kind of “thing”…however, by the end of the evening, all of my preconceptions had been completely eradicated!
Emerging through the plush red-velvet-curtained entrance, I was welcomed into a warmly decorated dining room, complete with traditional operatic costumes, strategically placed throughout the room. As I was lead to my table, I was stunned by the beauty of the glimmering chandelier hung in the centre of the room…I could tell that this was going to be an evening with a certain amount of class.
Seated at my table, with the atmospheric tones of the grand piano playing in the background, I perused the lovingly crafted menu of traditional French cuisine and, after much deliberation, settled upon my choice of starter and main course. To begin, I elected for the grilled goats cheese – the bite-sized roulade of goat’s cheese was beautifully served in a delicate basket woven from Parmesan cheese, atop a simple salad, with a base of marinated beetroot carpaccio. It was so simply and caringly served that it almost felt wrong to ruin it – as if I was destroying a piece of art!
Then, to my complete surprise, one of the waiting staff began to sing! The chatter of the room fell silent, as all eyes were instantly fixed on the female Soprano – her voice was astonishing. And she certainly was not the only one…throughout the evening, with intervals of around 15 minutes, the audience/diners were serenaded by pitch-perfect solo performances, duets and quartets, from a range of Operas in French, Spanish, German, and Italian! If, like me, you have very little understanding of these languages, you need not worry – the artists use their facial expressions and body movements to help convey the (sometimes complex) message of story, moving about the room to interact with and captivate their whole audience. Acting as both singers, and wait-staff, the performers are incredibly personable and are more than happy to tell the tales of what each performance is about, including the country of origin, and which opera the piece comes from. I was treated to renditions of pieces from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’, Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’, and Bizet’s ‘Carmen’. By 9pm, the audience were well into the swing of things, and were welcomed to join the performers in a (free) glass of Prosecco, and a lively sing-along with the tenors, for the famous chorus of Verdi’s “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” – which literally means “to drink from the joyful cups”.
As the performances continued, so did the delicious courses. For the main, I decided on the succulent Chicken Chasseur which was accompanied by a bed of smooth, creamy mashed potato, pan fried pancetta, and sweet baby onions. I followed this with an indulgent dessert of velvety Panna Cotta and fresh strawberries. The waiters and waitresses were incredible attentive throughout and could not do enough to help.
As a whole, the evening was a pure delight, and I found myself quite unexpectedly wanting more! As a person who has never had a particular interest in opera music, I can now say that I have been convinced and determined to learn more. From solo arias and heart-felt duets, to comedic quartets, the artists and musicians took their audience through a speeding rollercoaster of emotions – one which will certainly not be forgotten in a hurry!