World of ballads and legends ...

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St John sub Castro Church in Lewes plays host to an exciting initiative in music next month.

The Ballads of Wandering Knights will be performed there on February 8 by OperaCoast.

This is a project which aims to give up­and­coming young professional singers the chance to develop their skills inoperatic performance.

OperaCoast also provides the chance for ambitious amateur singers to make their way into opera, in a forum where professional music and stage directors can pass on their skills.

It allows Sussex to welcome guests from the UK and beyond to enjoy wonderful music­making in the company of like­minded people.

Founder is Anastasia Witts, a Russian soprano who formed a love of music in her childhood, singing folk songs withher family in the Caucasus.

She has performed with New Sussex Opera and other companies since arriving in England, along with coaching singers in Russian.

She said OperaCoast runs a weekend summer workshop in Eastbourne, working on scenes from a chosen opera and giving a performance to a local audience at the end of it.

Anastasia said: “We aim to achieve quite a few goals – to give young professional singers and ambitious amateur singers a chance to immerse in working on an opera, to bring opera to people who are not familiar with it, to provide an active operatic holiday in Sussex ... and much more.”

She founded OperaCoast nearly three years ago “to faciliate things for singers, and help young professionals whoneed to get a foot in the door”.

The Lewes fundraising performance features guest singer Allegra Giagu and pianist Nicole Panizza. Joined by young soloists of OperaCoast they will perform a programme of art­songs by various composers taking the audience into the world of ballads and legends.

Allegra has sung for The Pope and the Dalai Lama.

She was also a featured artist on the Oscar ­nominated soundtrack for Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightley.

Tickets are £12 – under­20s free. Email or visit