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A Feast of Summer Opera




Any visitor could be forgiven for thinking the opera season in the British Isles would be closed down for a rest during high summer, following full autumn, winter and spring seasons in London, Cardiff, Leeds and Glasgow and their various provincial offshoots.

The Kirov Opera production of Prokofiev's Semyon Kotko. Photo: Hugh Glendenning

No such thing : Glyndebourne will, as usual, be in full flow all summer, to be followed in the autumn by Glyndebourne Touring Opera. In addition to the Royal Opera's June flowering of Verdi (Domingo in concert performances of La Battaglia di Legnano, see below), Valery Gergiev brings his Kirov Opera and Ballet from St Petersburg to Covent Garden for a visit that includes not one but two Prokofiev Operas (Semyon Kotko and War and Peace), plus Khovanshchina (Mussorgsky) and Mazeppa (Tchaikovsky).

Vladimir Ognorenko as Khovansky in the Kirov Opera production of Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina. Tatiana Pavlovskaya as Maria in the Kirov Opera production of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa. Photos: Hugh Glendenning

But the flurry of early and late summer opera in the English regions - and beyond - is truly mind-boggling. In short, there's something for every taste.

Max Wittges (left) as King Solomon and Mauro Nicoletti as Assad in the Wexford Festival Opera 1999 production of Goldmark's Die Königin von Saba (The Queen of Sheba). Photo: Derek Speirs

For one, there's more Russian opera, later in the season (October), at the Wexford International Opera Festival in Eire (Southern Ireland), where Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans (Orleanskaya Deva) is staged, sung in Russian, alongside two really rare items : Adolphe Adam's If I were King (Si j'etais roi) and Conchita, by the Italian verismo Puccini contemporary, Riccardo Zandonai (a composer already featured before by the ever-inventive Wexford).

From left to right, Jacek Janiszewski as Zbigniew, Elizabeth Woods as Czesnikova and Dariusz Stachura as Stefan in Wexford Festival Opera's 1999 production of Straszny Dwór (The Haunted Manor). Photo: Derek Speirs

You can get to Wexford in Ireland's south east corner by plane plus bus or train (from Dublin, Cork or Shannon), or put your car on the ferry from England across to Dun Laoghaire (outside Dublin), Cork or Rosslare, travelling from Holyhead, Swansea or Pembroke and Fishguard respectively. The countryside around is well worth exploring, and there's the JFK centre at the former Kennedy family farm not far away; that said, there's so much opera going on in the Festival Theatre, White's Hotel and the local recital churches during those October three weeks, visitors will find themselves well and truly occupied.

Russian opera is the central fare at Grange Park, too, the three year old festival founded by conductor Wasfi Kani on an attractive estate near Winchester. Grange Park's Eugene Onegin features, amongst others Robert Poulton, one of the most capable character actors among younger British opera performers (and an acclaimed Falstaff for Garsington Opera a couple of years ago). Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, fresh from his Don Jose for English Touring Opera, sings Lenski. Opera North's former music director, David Lloyd-Jones, conducts.

Grange Park opens with Handel's swashbuckling Rinaldo, conducted by John Toll, a distinguished Baroque specialist and keyboard interpreter of early music : the arias are gobsmacking. Grange Park's third opera promises to be a riotous anniversary year tribute to Gilbert and Sullivan : The Mikado, with basses Clive Bayley and Richard van Allan buffooning it up. Oxford Operatic Society stage The Mikado at the Oxford Playhouse from 5-l0 June. The revived Carl Rosa Company has been touring Mikado too (with Strauss's Die Fledermaus), and rounds off its tour in Newcastle, Aberdeen and Preston at the end of May, before resurfacing at the Grand Opera House, Belfast in the autumn (Aug 29f) with a Gilbert and Sullivan double - The Yeomen of the Guard and Iolanthe. Richard Fawkes's production of the Yeomen of the Guard runs at Holland Park from 25-29 July. And Covent Garden's BOC Festival stages Trial by Jury at sundry appropriate 'legal' venues during May and June; you can also catch Opera della Luna's HMS Pinafore there.

The BOC Covent Garden on-site production of Trial By Jury

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Copyright © 10 April 2000 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK



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