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Commentary

21 Sep 2020

Bampton Classical Opera 2020: Gluck's The Crown at St John's Smith Square

Bampton Classical Opera returns to the Baroque splendour of London’s St John’s Smith Square on November 6 with a concert performance of Gluck’s one-act opera The Crown, the first in the UK since 1987. The performance will also be filmed and available to watch on demand on the Bampton website from 9 November.

Bampton Classical Opera returns to the Baroque splendour of London’s St John’s Smith Square on November 6 with a concert performance of Gluck’s one-act opera The Crown, the first in the UK since 1987. The performance will also be filmed and available to watch on demand on the Bampton website from 9 November.

Christoph Willibald Gluck: The Crown (La corona, 1765)
Azione teatrale , in one act, sung in Italian with linking English narration

Cast
Meleagro - Harriet Eyley
Atalanta - Samantha Louis-Jean
Climene - Lisa Howarth
Asteria - Lucy Anderson

Narrator - Rosa French
Orchestra - CHROMA
Conductor - Robert Howarth

Concert Performance:
St John’s Smith Square, London: 7.30pm Friday 6 November, 2020

Composed in 1765 The Crown (La corona) glories in the sensuous beauty and virtuosity of the soprano voice. It was written for four Viennese Archduchesses, daughters of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and the formidable Empress Maria Theresa, young singers for whom Gluck had already composed his delectable Il parnaso confuso, performed by Bampton in 2014. Both works set words by Pietro Metastasio and were destined for imperial family celebrations at the Hapsburg court theatre, although La corona was abandoned due to the Emperor’s death. In Bampton’s performance the florid arias - as thrilling as anything by Handel - will be sung in Italian, linked by a narration in English. Early music specialist Robert Howarth conducts, making his Bampton debut, and an outstanding cast includes Lucy Anderson, first prize-winner of the 2019 Bampton Young Singers’ Competition. The performance adds to Bampton’s noteworthy exploration of rarely-performed operas by Gluck, one of the most significant and melodious of eighteenth-century masters.

Synopsis
In his almost countless libretti, which made him the most popular of operatic poets in the first half of the 18th century, Metastasio plundered the classical myths for stories of valour and love.The Crown, like many others, derives from a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Meleagro, Prince of Calydonia, gathers a troupe of brave heroes to hunt and slaughter the ferocious wild boar which has been sent by the goddess Diana to devastate his realm. The opera however is concerned not with masculine prowess and bravery but with the role and ambitions of women. Atalanta, Climene and Asteria debate whether to join the chase, angry that only men can have the honour of gaining the crown of victory. When they consult Meleagro, he says the task is men’s work and warns that they will endanger themselves. Nevertheless, the girls cannot hold back: Atalanta wounds the boar and Meleagro is able to kill it. Each is reticent to accept the crown: in the end they offer it to the Emperor Francis, in whose honour the opera was commissioned.

The opera’s première at Schönbrunn Palace was planned for 4 October 1765 to celebrate the name-day of the Emperor Francis; it was intended as a surprise spectacle, commissioned by his wife. Unfortunately all the efforts of composition and preparation were to no avail, as the Emperor died unexpectedly on 18 August, and the project was entirely dropped. Fortunately manuscripts survive and it had a few performances in the later twentieth century. Bampton’s performance now is the first in this country since 1987.

The Crown opens with a three-movement Overture, followed by six arias of varied colour and character, a duet and a concluding ‘chorus’.

Although Gluck often reused music from his earlier works, all of the music for La corona was composed afresh. The dynamic Allegro which concludes the overture reappeared in a new guise five years later in the overture for Paris and Helen and as part of the final radiant duet for those love-struck and ill-fated characters. The concert on 6 November 2020 was originally planned to be a performance of Paris and Helen, marking the 300th anniversary of the Vienna premiere of that larger-scale opera on 3 November 1770, a project sadly prevented - or, at least, postponed - by the strict distancing requirements necessitated by the coronavirus epidemic. Bampton will perform Paris and Helen in full in 2021.

Bampton Classical Opera enjoys a national reputation for its passionate and enlightened discoveries of rare late 18th-century operas, sung in lively new translations. Amongst these have been UK premières of BertoniOrfeo, Isouard Cendrillon, Marcos PortugalThe Marriage of Figaro, Paer Leonora, BendaRomeo and Juliet, Gluck Il Parnaso confuso, Bauci e Philemon and Salieri Falstaff. The company works with some of the finest emerging young professional singers and 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. Bampton Classical Opera encourages a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, and with ticket prices being excellent value, their performances provide an ideal introduction to anyone unaccustomed to opera.

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2019 production of Stephen Storace Bride and Gloom (Gli sposi malcontenti) has been shortlisted for an International Opera Award/Rediscovered Work Category.

www.bamptonopera.org

Booking information (booking opens Wednesday 23 September)
7.30pm, 6 November, St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA
The performance is approximately 50 mins - 1 hour, no interval

There are 140 socially-distanced tickets available - full price £28, under-18’s £8.
Online: www.sjss.org.uk
(The performance is subject to developing government constraints)

Performance filmed ‘as live’ and available on demand from November 9 via www.bamptonopera.org Price: £8.

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