Opera but not as you know it

I’m seeing Cornwall behind Devon’s back. Usually I’d never condone cheating, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Devon recently and felt that the grass might be – not greener – but possibly different the other side of the Tamar. While I couldn’t choose between the conflicting cream tea techniques (to be honest, jam first does make a lot of sense) Cornwall seems to be Devon’s match in terms of sweeping coastal landscapes and oh-so-friendly locals, I did find something pretty special which I’ve never seen on Devon’s luscious coastline: an open-air opera in a fully operational amphitheatre.

The Minack by day (no audience yet)

By evening, it’s nothing short of spectacular.

Carved into the cliffside over-looking Porthcurno Beach, The Minack Theatre is one of the world’s most famous outdoor theatres and is completely breathtaking. Attracting the very best amateur and professional drama troupes from all over the world, the Minack offers an unrivalled experience for arty types: top notch opera or theatre while watching the sun dip over the ocean. It’s uniquely magical.

Carved into the cliffside

The idea came about when Rowena Cade, inhabitant of Minack House which sits at the top of the cliff, decided to create a place for local drama enthusiasts to perform Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Over the winter of 1931 and into 1932, Rowena and her gardener, one Billy Rawlings, moved heaps of granite boulders and earth to create the stage and the lower terraces.

If ever there was a good excuse to use a drone camera…

A magical evening

Over the past 80 years, the Minack has evolved into Cornwall’s best-kept secret. We saw Verdi’s La Traviata (in English) and ate fresh monkfish curry from the food stall perched atop the cliff. Though a complete opera neophyte, I was completely enchanted. There’s something about open-air entertainment on a warm summer’s evening that is utterly appealing. To be honest, they could have put Mr Bean on stage and I’d have still been captivated. Even if opera gives you the snores, get yourself down to Porthcurno and experience this truly incredible Cornish phenomenon.

Book ahead though, it completely sells out over the summer months.

Kathryn Bellamy


Farmer’s daughter turned Londoner, writer and interiors lover Kathryn lives in Battersea with her boyfriend and chilli plants. When she’s not writing or re-decorating, she’s working on a series of children's books. At the weekends she regularly swaps London for Devon or Herefordshire.

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