04 May 2016
Bampton Classical Opera 2016
A Double-Bill of Divine Comedies
What’s an artist’s place in politics? That’s the question many were asking after actress Meryl Streep made a pointed speech criticizing President Trump at the Golden Globes. Trump responded directly to Streep, using his preferred communication medium of Twitter to call Streep “overrated.”
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
The college administration and President Denise Battles’ recent decision to defund the Finger Lakes Opera came as a shock to many and a concern to more. This decision reflects the administration’s blatant disregard for the arts and reveals a mindset that is counterproductive to the mission of the college.
Lucerne Festival announces its 2017 Summer Festival.
The GRAMMY Award-winning BEMF Chamber Opera Series returns with an all-new production inspired by the splendor and music of the palace of Versailles. King Louis XIV transformed his father’s pastoral hunting lodge at Versailles into a lavish palace that served as the seat of government and culture in France.
Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre, a full-length opera in three acts with a libretto by Diane Osen based on Charlotte Bronte’s novel, will receive its world premiere at The Kaye Playhouse (Hunter College) on Thursday, October 20, 7:30pm with a second performance on Saturday, October 22, 8pm. Jane Eyre is Karchin’s second opera, composed in 2014, following his critically acclaimed one-act comic opera Romulus.
Cambridge, MA–The Boston Early Music Festival (BEMF) is pleased to announce the appointment of Melinda Sullivan to the new position of the Lucy Graham Dance Director.
Kseniia Muslanova from the Russian Federation has won the 3rd annual Elizabeth Connell Prize for aspiring dramatic sopranos held at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Sydney Australia on 3 September 2016.
Victory Hall Opera is a new company making its debut in Charlottesville Virginia on August 14, 2016. Its first presentation will be Richard Strauss’s and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Der Rosenkavalier.
Lyric soprano Elizabeth Caballero’s signature role is Violetta in La traviata, which she portrays with a compelling interpretation, focused sound, and elegant coloratura that floats through the opera house as naturally as waves on the ocean.
Maria Nockin interviews baritone Brian Mulligan.
I arrive at the Jerwood Space, where rehearsals are underway for Garsington Opera’s forthcoming production of Idomeneo, to find that the afternoon rehearsal has finished a little early.
Tickets on Sale NOW for June 10 & 12 Performances at UNLV’s Performing Arts Center Box Office
A Double-Bill of Divine Comedies
With its merry-go-round exchange of deluded and bewitched lovers, an orphan-turned-princess, a usurped prince, a jewel and a flower with magical properties, a march to the scaffold and a meddling ‘mistress-of-ceremonies’ who encourages the young lovers to disguise and deceive, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring has all the ingredients of an opera buffa.
Kathleen Kelly is an internationally renowned pianist, coach, conductor, and master teacher. She was the first woman and first American named Director of Musical Studies at the Vienna State Opera.
Atsuto Sawakami is a slightly built man in his late sixties with impeccable, gentlemanly manners. He communicates a certain restless energy and his piercingly bright eyes reveal an undimmed appetite for life.
‘Lieder v. Opera’? At first glance it might seem to be a pointless or nonsensical question.
Extreme Dolly Parton fans may sound like unlikely subjects for an opera, but they are the major characters in Heartbreak Express, a collaboration of composer George Lam and librettist John Clum.
A Double-Bill of Divine Comedies
Bampton Classical Opera’s summer 2016 production will be a double-bill of one-act works: the UK première and first staging in modern times of Gluck’s Philemon and Baucis, and Thomas Arne’s The Judgment of Paris, which the company performed in 2010-11. The operas will be staged by the same creative team as the highly-successful 2015 production of Salieri’s Trofonio’s Cave ( review): director Jeremy Gray, translator Gilly French, and conductor Paul Wingfield, who was a Jette Parker Young Artist from 2012-14 and is currently a member of the music staff at the Royal Opera House.
The cast for both operas features Canadian soprano Barbara Cole Walton, making her company début, mezzo-soprano Catherine Backhouse, who sang in the London performance of Salieri’s Trofonio’s Cave in 2015, and two other cast members from the same production: soprano Aoife O’Sullivan and tenor Christopher Turner. They are joined by tenor Robert Anthony Gardiner and baritone Robert Gildon.
Bampton Classical Opera has made a unique commitment to performing some of Gluck’s barely-known shorter operas, including UK premières of La danza and Il Parnaso confuso (review). Gluck is all too easily assigned to a single musico-historical category – that of operatic reformer. However, his works extend far beyond the ‘reform’ opera style with which he is most commonly associated, encompassing youthful Metastasian opera seria, numerous ballet scores and several delightful one-act festal serenatas.
As a long-time employee of the Hapsburg estate, Gluck was required to devise suitable entertainments for festive occasions. In 1769, when Ferdinand, Duke of Parma and grandson of Louis XV, was to marry Maria Amalia, Archduchess of Austria and sister of Marie Antoinette a series of events was planned, comprising a tournament, elaborate feasts, a Chinese fair, and a festival illustrating contemporary advances in art and science. The festivities stretched over several months, and included an opera-ballet commissioned from Gluck entitled Le feste d’Apollo, which consisted of a prologue and three essentially unrelated acts: Aristeo, Philémon e Baucis and an abridgement of the composer’s Orfeo.
Characteristically, the subject of Philemon and Baucis was taken from Classical mythology. It tells of the story of two young lovers, the eponymous shepherd and shepherdess, who show great respect and care for Jupiter when he appears before them disguised as a pilgrim. In return, the rustic couple are blessed by Jupiter with everlasting life and elevated to the status of demigods. At the same time, he curses their fellow Phrygians who had refused to help him.
The score blends the charmingly simple with the intricately sophisticated. One commenter has observed of the work that ‘Shorter numbers have an epigrammatic compression of charm and style that is very French, but the longer arias possess a majestic breadth of treatment that both looks back to Italian Baroque models and forward to Mozart’.
Gluck borrowed from several earlier works – inevitably commissions for festive occasion-pieces needed to be dashed off in haste – but there is some striking original music too, not least Jupiter’s aria di furia against the uncharitable Phyrigians, Bauci’s joyful, florid, stratospheric ‘Il mio pastor tu sei’, and a thunderous storm sequence.
This new première will be given in an English translation by Gilly French, with a performing edition based on a manuscript in the Royal College of Music.
The Judgment of Paris is one of three masques composed by Thomas Arne between 1738 and 1742. It represents, along with The Masque of Comus and The Masque of Alfred some of the composer’s finest work. It was first performed in London on 12 March 1742, and it has been suggested that it may have been intended to upstage Sammartini, the protégé of Frederick the Prince of Wales, for the Italian’s own The Judgment of Paris had been performed at Cliveden in 1740 alongside Arne’s masque, Alfred.
William Congreve’s text had been set before, in 1700, when it served as the vehicle for a composing competition whose 200 guinea prize was shared between Daniel Purcell, John Weldon, John Eccles and Gottfried Finger. The winning compositions were subsequently performed at a special concert. Perhaps in choosing the same libretto forty years later, Arne hoped to make a point about his own superior standing, although by then the original competition pieces had long been forgotten.
Arne’s inventive music perfectly matches Congreve’s droll wit. The action relates the episode in which Paris, a shepherd, is obliged to choose the fairest among the three goddesses Juno, Pallas and, inevitably, Venus. During the competition, Paris finds himself the subject of various enticements as the goddesses attempt to persuade him in turn to award them the symbol of victory, a golden apple. Far from displaying bucolic gaucheness, Paris demonstrates unanticipated wile in delaying his judgement for long enough to incite the impatient goddess into singing several arias and engaging in a degree of disrobing. Just how is a director to treat Paris’s line, ‘When each is undress’d, I’ll judge of the best’?
The overture is well-known but there is also much lovely writing for solo voice, which in the words of one modern commentator shows Arne to be ‘at the height of his powers […] unequalled by his English contemporaries for the matchless flow of his melodic invention’. In addition to the beautiful, Paris and Mercury (two tenors) share a splendid duet and the three goddesses have a lively dance-like trio. As with Gluck, the music ranges the simple – strophic airs – to the intricate, as in ‘Gentle swain’ with its elaborate cello obliggato.
Bampton Classical Opera performed The Judgment of Paris in concert performances marking Arne’s 300th birthday in Oxford’s Holywell Music Room and in Wigmore Hall in 2010-11.
Philemon and Baucis/The Judgment of Paris , with free pre-performance talks:
The Deanery Garden, Bampton, Oxfordshire OX18 2LL
7.00 pm Friday 22 July, Saturday 23 July
The Orangery Terrace, Westonbirt School, near Tetbury, Glos GL8 8QG
5.00 pm Monday 29 August
St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA
7.00 pm Tuesday 13 September
Philemon and Baucis
Baucis – Barbara Cole Walton, Philemon – Catherine Backhouse, Jupiter – Christopher Turner, Chorus soprano (shepherdess) – Aoife O’Sullivan, Chorus tenor – Robert Anthony Gardiner, Chorus baritone – Robert Gildon
The Judgment of Paris
Juno – Barbara Cole Walton, Pallas – Catherine Backhouse, Paris – Christopher Turner, Venus – Aoife O’Sullivan, Mercury – Robert Anthony Gardiner, Chorus baritone – Robert Gildon
Conductor: Paul Wingfield
Director/designer: Jeremy Gray
Movement director: Triona Adams
Costume designer: Vikki Medhurst
The Deanery Garden and Westonbirt:
Tickets: £35 (under 18: half-price)
By Telephone: 01993 851142
By post: Bampton Classical Opera, 1 Deanery Court, Broad Street, Bampton, OX18 2LY
St John’s Smith Square:
Tickets: £15, £22, £30. Booking for Friends of St John’s opens 4 July, for General Public 11 July
By Telephone: 020 7222 1061
By post: St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA