Karen and Rebecca are true 'Opera Babes'

TWO singers who are doing their bit to make opera sexy thrilled an audience of hundreds last night.The Opera Babes - soprano Rebecca Knight and mezzo-soprano Karen England - launched the open-air section of the Bury St Edmunds Festival with a concert in the town's Abbey Gardens.

TWO singers who are doing their bit to make opera sexy thrilled an audience of hundreds last night.

The Opera Babes - soprano Rebecca Knight and mezzo-soprano Karen England - launched the open-air section of the Bury St Edmunds Festival with a concert in the town's Abbey Gardens.

The pair have had a meteoric rise to fame, after scraping a living busking in Covent Garden in 2001 to becoming the sound of ITV's 2002 World Cup coverage.

Speaking before their performance, the duo said taking their music to an alfresco audience helped break down the stereotypes associated with opera.

“Sometimes people just don't really understand opera,” said Karen, 28, who trained at the Guildhall School of Music.

“They think it is a bit highbrow, as there are a lot of stereotypes around. But such barriers are being broken down all the time by opera singers using their assets to sell their talents.

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“More and more people are realising the stereotypical view of opera is outdated, and people who come to our concerts will see that - our music is lighter than you would imagine.

“These open-air evenings are a great way of taking classical music to a wider audience. We try and make opera less pretentious, to give families an opportunity to come and listen to some classical music on a summer evening.”

Rebecca,32, said: “We like to take our music out to a wide variety of audiences, and would much rather perform regularly at smaller venues than put on only three or four shows a year at larger places.”

The Opera Babes' debut album was at number one for nine weeks last summer and last night's concert of well-known arias and songs from the shows, backed by the South Bank Sinfonia, was a perfect way to kick off the Abbey Gardens events, said festival director Nick Wells.

Mr Wells said: “It's quite significant that they agreed to come to Bury as they have just been on a tour around America and they have only done two or three big gigs in this country so far.

“This was their first time performing in East Anglian and as they both have roots in the area it was great they decided to come back.”

He is now praying for fine weather for the remaining three concerts in the gardens.

Tonight, there is a Beatles and Rolling Stones tribute event and tomorrow Let's Salsa will really turn up the heat in the famous park.

Described as “one of the best Latin bands to be heard anywhere in the world”, the 13-piece band that is Roberto Pla's Latin Jazz Ensemble is expected to delight crowds with its hot salsa grooves.

On Sunday the festival is rounded off with a fireworks finale with Humphrey Lyttelton and his Band. The event is being sponsored by the EADT.

For more information about the festival telephone 01284 769505.

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