"For the perfect way to dip your toes in operatic waters, head to Opera North in Leeds"

For the perfect way to dip your toes in operatic waters, head to Opera North in Leeds for Puccini's classic, La Bohème, which will be showing throughout 2010. This modern version is set in 1950s Paris, and the tale of young love and heartbreak features an international line-up of new talent. Just don't forget the tissues - it's a tear-jerker.

The opera is sung in Italian, but Opera North provides section titles on plasma screens throughout the performance, so you should be able to follow what's going on (although it's worth brushing up on the storyline beforehand).

Nor do you have to dig out tails before you go, as Opera North doesn't have a dress code.

If you fancy something more traditional, then Liverpool's Mozart Orchestra doesn't just perform the music of its namesake, but covers a wide repertoire of composers with the help of guest conductors and soloists. The main body of the orchestra is non-professional, but the standard is high and definitely worth checking out. Its spring programme sees the orchestra join forces with the Manchester Chamber Choir, soloists from the Royal Northern College of Music and Ad Solem, Manchester University's Chamber Choir, for its first performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Don't assume that classical music has to mean old - Manchester Camerata runs composers' workshops each year, which see up to 10 students from the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester University and Chetham's School of Music spend the day developing their own piece with an experienced composer.

The top three will then be performed in three concerts between March and May. This is a fantastic opportunity to hear brand new music performed live for the first time - and there's always a chance you'll be catching a new Debussy at work.

Just don't expect a stuffy atmosphere - as Manus Carey, Head of Artistic Planning at Manchester Camerata explains, the orchestra tries to promote a relaxed attitude to the whole thing. 'We've abandoned wearing bow ties as an orchestra and try to encourage more interaction between the players and the audience. People have lots of preconceptions about classical music but the best thing you can do is just come and listen, and find out for yourself.'

For something a little more low key, Manchester Chamber Concerts Society puts together and promotes a series of concerts, handpicking a small group of some of the best musicians in the world to play the pieces.

The society's spring repertoire includes the perfect piece to get you into the classical groove - Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat major.

As the society's artistic administrator, Helen Michetschlager, explains: 'This was written when Mendelssohn was only 16 and is perhaps the best piece of music ever written by someone of that age. The music is really cheerful and extrovert - you come away from it feeling the world's a better place.'

Whether you fancy opera, chamber music or a full-blown orchestra, classical music can be exhilarating, moving and accessible - so what are you waiting for?

Dos and Don'ts of Classical Musical

Do clap to show your appreciation

Don't leave your phone switched on

Do your homework - read up on the opera you're going to see

Don't worry about a dress code - people aren't generally expected to turn up in full black tie any more

Do say: 'Did you know that 2009 marked the 350th anniversary of Purcell's birth?'

Don't say: 'Anybody want to listen to my new Katherine Jenkins CD?'

FIVE PLACES TO WATCH CLASSICAL MUSIC

Opera North

Nearest station - Leeds (15-min walk)

operanorth.co.uk

0113 243 9999


Liverpool Mozart Orchestra

Performing at Pacific Road
Arts Centre

Nearest station - Liverpool Lime St, take Wirral Line to Hamilton Sq Station (5-min walk)  

merseyworld.com/lmo

0151 722 9758

 

Manchester Camerata

Nearest station - Manchester Piccadilly (20-min walk)

manchestercamerata.co.uk  
0161 226 8696


Manchester Chamber CONCERTS Society

Nearest station - Manchester (20-min walk)

chamberconcerts.org

 

Sheffield City Hall

Nearest station - Sheffield (10-min walk)

sheffieldcityhall.co.uk

0114 2 789 789

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