Cafe Operana

Featuring Helen Webby on pedal harp, Sophia Bidwell on accordion and Lois Johnston on vocals, Café Operana take their listeners on a musical merry-go-round ride through Puccini’s Florence to Macedonia and on to discover if “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”. With their glittering costumes and breathtaking musicianship, Café Operana re-creates the heady atmosphere of a French Salon in the early 1900s.
East meets West in this eclectic smorgasbord of haunting melodies and wild dances with a dash of gypsy flavour. Hop on board and hold on tight - the carousel won’t wait!

Sophia Bidwell has one foot in the opera camp and the other planted firmly in folk music. She brings to Café Operana her experience as a repetiteur with Canterbury Opera as well as many years working in folk and cover bands. Originally a classical pianist she has been a convert to the accordion for many years.

Lois Johnston graduated form the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and forged a career singing early and contemporary music. Almost 10 years later she “discovered” opera, prompting her to gain a postgraduate diploma in Operatic Performance from Birmingham Conservatoire.

From there she trod the boards of opera houses around Europe before settling in New Zealand where she is now a citizen. Café Operana fulfills the musical maverick in her.

Principal harp with Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Helen Webby loves to take her gold harp out of the back of the orchestra and sparkle in the limelight. Her dancing fingers and big smile create a magical journey from Bach and Baroque to Paris and La Belle Epoque and the latest in contemporary music. Her CD “Pluck” (MANU) was nominated for Best Classical CD in the 2013 NZ Music Awards. Helen is a favourite with Arts on Tour audiences around New Zealand, and her recent solo tour features in a new documentary Central to the Soul by film-maker Bill Morris, selected for the 14th International Doc Edge Festival this year.