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Reviews

Bampton Classical Opera 2017, Salieri’s <em>The School of Jealousy</em>
26 Mar 2017

Cast announced for Bampton Classical Opera's 2017 production of Salieri's The School of Jealousy

Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.

Partenope, English National Opera

Above: Portrait of Salieri by Joseph Willibrord Mähler

 

Setting a sharply cynical libretto by Caterino Mazzolà, this opera buffa was written in Venice and first performed at the Teatro San Moisè in 1778. It was selected to inaugurate the Emperor Joseph II’s new Italian opera troupe at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1783, with an outstanding cast including the star English soprano Nancy Storace (later one of Mozart’s favourite sopranos and the first Susanna) as the Countess, and Francesco Benucci (later Figaro and Guglielmo) as Blasio. Salieri revised the score for these performances including new arias specially for Nancy Storace, and the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte added some textual adjustments. The opera made a huge impact and became one of the highlights of Storace’s career.

La scuola de’ gelosi was performed widely across Europe - from London to St Petersburg - for several decades, and was praised warmly by Goethe. The opera’s great success in Vienna almost certainly inspired Da Ponte and Mozart to create La scuola degli amanti which eventually became known by its alternative title Così fan tutte and there are many narrative parallels between the two. In both fidelity and honesty are tested by means of dangerous games and deceits, and the manipulative Lieutenant in Gelosi is a counterpart to Don Alfonso.

It was the first of Salieri’s works to be performed in London, in 1786: The Herald judged “it is the first lyric drama that may be termed strictly good, whether we advert to the poem itself, the music, or the performance” and the Morning Post called it a “masterly composition” that “does great honour to Salieri, whose reputation as a composer must rise infinitely in the musical world, from this very pleasing specimen of his abilities”. For performances in 1780 at the court theatre at Esterháza, Haydn composed two insertion arias.

La scuola de’ gelosi is enjoying a current revival across Europe, including performances this year in Florence and Vienna and a recording by L’arte del mondo on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. Bampton has also selected the work to mark the bicentenary of the death of Nancy Storace in 1817.

Plot outline

The Count Bandiera is a skilful philanderer, but takes a big risk when he invites Ernestina, wife of a pathologically jealous businessman, out on a shopping trip. A decidedly non-PC visit to a madhouse, fortune-telling gypsies and the lessons taught by paintings are just some of the bizarre situations encountered in this scintillating comedy of marital dis-harmony.

Cast

Countess Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano)
Ernestina Nathalie Chalkley (soprano)
Carlotta Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano)
Count Alessandro Fisher (tenor)
Tenente Thomas Herford (tenor)
Blasio Matthew Sprange (baritone)
Lumaca Samuel Pantcheff (baritone)

Bampton Classical Opera was founded in 1993 by its artistic directors, Gilly French and Jeremy Gray, and stages less familiar works from the late Classical period, many of which might not otherwise be heard. The performances are of the highest musical quality, yet are relaxed and welcoming with fresh and accessible English translations, and can be enjoyed even by those with little opera experience. The company also provides valuable performance opportunities for the country’s finest young professional singers, and hosts a Young Singers’ Competition every two years.

Bampton Classical Opera stages productions in rural venues in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire as well as regularly in London at St John’s Smith Square. Other significant venues and festivals have included Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room, Buxton Festival, Cheltenham Festival and Theatre Royal Bath. Amongst their many performances have been UK premières of Bertoni Orfeo, Marcos Portugal The Marriage of Figaro, Paer Leonora, BendaRomeo and Juliet, Gluck Il Parnaso confuso,Philemon and Baucis, Salieri Falstaff and La grotta di Trofonio.

The delightful Deanery Garden at Bampton provides a charming and picturesque venue for open-air opera, with an excellent natural acoustic. Westonbirt School is a spectacular Victorian mansion, with extensive Grade I listed gardens: the performances take place in the Orangery Theatre. Audiences are encouraged to bring their own garden chairs and enjoy a pre-performance or interval picnic.

St John’s Smith Square is the most historic of London’s concert halls and provides an outstanding and appropriately eighteenth-century setting for this performance.

The School of Jealousy performances, with free pre-performance talks:

The Deanery Garden, Bampton, Oxfordshire OX18 2LL
7.00 pm Friday 21 and Saturday 22 July

The Orangery Theatre, Westonbirt School, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8QG
5.00 pm Monday 28 August

St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA
7.00 pm Tuesday 12 September

www.bamptonopera.org

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