Sunday, 24 June 2012

Pleasure and Virtue

Two performances of Handel’s Choice of Hercules given this weekend in two very different venues with diametrically opposite acoustics.   The beautiful Baroque Library (formerly All Saints’ Church) at Lincoln College, Oxford made an appropriately period setting, and the architecture responded wonderfully to the wizardry of Ian Chandler’s colourfully lighting: the cherubs over the former altar looking as though they were streaked with brilliant coloured paint – green, red and blue.  We were given the warm est welcome and reception at the College.  Sadly Saturday’s country-house performance was timed with  the worst ‘midsummer’ weather imaginable, and with several hours of waiting around in a very cold marquee, it was not the most enjoyable performance for the musicians, “Yet can I hear that dulcet lay” was accompanied by a monsoon thundering on the marquee roof.  Nevertheless the music won the day, and we are grateful for both invitations to perform this glorious work.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Herculean labours

Suddenly we’re transported back to the earlier 18th century as we revive our Choice of Hercules (Handel) which we performed at the Holywell Music Room and elsewhere last autumn and winter.  With a new singer, Chris Lowrey, in the title role, we’re rehearsing  this evening in the slightly bizarre setting of a local hall in Westminster amidst bunting and children’s buggies.  Our two performances this weekend are again in and near Oxford: both are invitation events.  I’m sitting in the back of the rehearsal, enjoying the fact that I’m not involved in directing for once, and can leave that to John Arthur: and meanwhile I’m trying to work out the prop list for the French double-bill.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Figaro moves on apace

In the past two weeks, set construction for Figaro for Buxton has moved on considerably and is now very near completion (the photograph shows Act 1, scene 2, the Countess's room with its window ready for Cherubino's jump for freedom).   Anthony, Jeremy and Felicity have been spending long hours in Andrew’s farm barn (accompanied by the relentless gnawing of rats which, fortunately, have kept themselves out of sight – all the fun of the farm!), and work will be completed in the next couple of days before the barn is returned to its rightful agricultural use.  Besides, there’s the set for Blaise and  L’amant jaloux to get on with -  time is short!

The July copy of Opera magazine has just come through the letter-box, and we’re thrilled by the full feature article by Fiona Maddocks marking our twentieth season of opera-making.  With attractive photographs of our venues and our audiences at Bampton and Westonbirt, and of lively moments from our productions of Gluck’s Le cinesi and Haydn’s Le pescatrici,  it makes a strong case for our uniqueness, enterprise and artistic standards.   

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Life seems to have been both too frantic and too fraught to manage blogging recently,  but  now with a week ahead mixing rural frolics in Bampton (the annual Morris Dancing festival and of course the Jubilee) with scenery painting may permit a few postings.  Today the bunting around the village square is miserably bedraggled as the rain pours down (did anyone tell the Almighty that there’s a hosepipe ban?), but Anthony Hall and I were dry and sheltered  in the capacious barn of Andrew Hichens (you’ll know Andrew if you’ve bought  tickets from us on the phone) as we worked on the rebuild of the set of The Marriage of Figaro in readiness for our Buxton Festival performances in July.  This is, of course, the opera by Marcos Portugal, whose 250th birthday is being celebrated at Buxton this year with our three performances.  The set from our 2010 production needs something of a facelift and revamp to make it suitable for the Buxton Opera House, and we are trying to get it finished ahead of work on the set for the Philidor/Grétry double bill.  The photos show work-in-progress on the Countess's bed-chamber, and panels for the all-important wardrobe.

It always helps coming early in the alphabet, and the June edition of Opera Now which has just arrived through the letter-box happily lists us in the Worldwide Events Guide  between Aix-en-Provence and Bayreuth.   It’s nice to read that the ‘husband-and-wife team’ running Bampton is described as ‘indefatigable’ (well, you have to be when, on the 3rd June it’s necessary to light a log-fire at home in order to stay warm!) but, more importantly, that Bampton ‘continually surprises its audiences, breathing fresh life into little-known operas’.   We certainly hope that many will be surprised by our little-known offerings this summer.