For the first time in its history, this summer Garsington Opera will present four productions as well as a large community opera. 2017 also sees the arrival of the Philharmonia Orchestra for one opera production each season for the next five years. This year the festival offers Handel’s seductive masterpiece Semele, Debussy’s enigmatic Pelléas et Mélisande, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Rossini’s Il turco in Italia and will conclude with Silver Birch, a large-scale work for a professional cast with local community participants of all ages, commissioned by Garsington Opera, from leading British composer Roxanna Panufnik and librettist Jessica Duchen. The JLT Group is the season’s sponsor for the fourth consecutive year. As part of the Garsington Opera for All programme, funded by Arts Council England and run in partnership with Magna Vitae, Semele will also be screened free of charge in Skegness, Ramsgate, Burnham-on-Sea and Grimsby.

Semele is a love story in which the god Jupiter is captivated by the beauty of the all-too-human Semele; these dramatic and colourful mythological characters inspired Handel’s most memorably beautiful arias. The title role will mark the British debut of American soprano Heidi Stober, an established favourite at some of the world’s most important opera houses, including San Francisco Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Vienna Staatsoper and the Metropolitan Opera, New York. Singing the pivotal role of Jupiter is Robert Murray with Christine Rice singing his spurned wife Juno. They are joined by Jurgita Adamonytė (Ino), David Soar (Cadmus & Somnus), South African countertenor Christopher Ainslie (Athamas) and Leonard Ingrams Foundation Award winner Llio Evans (Iris). Leading early music specialist Jonathan Cohen will conduct the Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus and Annilese Miskimmon, Artistic Director of Norwegian National Opera will direct, in collaboration with designer Nicky Shaw.

Pelléas et Mélisande, Debussy’s only opera, and often considered to be one of the most original in the history of music, is full of shimmering beauty creating a work of intense hypnotic allure. It will feature established French bass-baritone Paul Gay (Golaud) and two rising stars taking the title roles - Jonathan McGovern (Pelléas) and American soprano Andrea Carroll (Mélisande) making her British debut, with Brian Bannatyne-Scott (Arkel) and Susan Bickley (Geneviève). Jac van Steen returns (Strauss Intermezzo 2015) to conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra in its first year of partnership with Garsington Opera. Michael Boyd (director) together with Tom Piper (designer) return following their acclaimed production of Eugene Onegin last season.

Il turco in Italia will be a revival of Garsington Opera’s joyous 2011 production directed by Martin Duncan with designs by Francis O’Connor. Three members of the original cast return - Mark Stone as the poet Prosdocimo, Quirijn de Lang as the dashing Turk Selim, and Geoffrey Dolton as the devoted but dull husband Geronio. They are joined by renowned British soprano Sarah Tynan as the dazzling and flirtatious Fiorilla and rising star Katie Bray as Zaida. Italian tenor Luciano Botelho returns as the love-lorn Narciso. Rossini doyen David Parry will conduct the Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus in this glittering musical score.

John Cox’s legendary production of Le nozze di Figaro, first seen at Garsington Manor in 2005, will be recreated for the opera pavilion at Wormsley. Written at the height of his genius, this is one of Mozart’s finest works. Australian born Joshua Bloom (Leporello, Don Giovanni, 2012) returns to sing the title role with the exciting soprano Jennifer France (Leonard Ingrams Award winner) as Susanna. The Canadian singer Kirsten MacKinnon will make her UK debut as the Countess with Duncan Rock as the Count and Marta Fontanals-Simmons as Cherubino. Stephen Richardson (Bartolo), Janis Kelly (Marcellina), and Timothy Robinson (Basilio) join the vibrant young cast. Douglas Boyd will again conduct this highly acclaimed production with the Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus. In June the principals and chorus of Garsington Opera will travel to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris to give a semi-staged concert performance of Figaro with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris conducted by its Music Director Douglas Boyd.

Roxanna Panufnik’s Silver Birch is a commission for Garsington Opera's Learning & Participation programme with Jessica Duchen as librettist. The production will see over 180 community participants aged 8-80, including recruits from the local military community, performing as dancers, singers, actors, instrumentalists, as well as student Foley artists from Cressex Community School under the guidance of Pinewood Studios Sound Designer Glen Gathard. They will perform alongside favourite Garsington professionals in the cast and orchestra. The story explores the extraordinary power of love within the devastating context of war and makes use of Siegfried Sassoon's poetry from WW1 (some of which was written while staying at Garsington Manor). The creative team is Karen Gillingham director, Rhiannon Newman Brown designer, and Garsington Opera’s Artistic Director Douglas Boyd joins them to conduct. The professional roles will be performed by Sam Furness (Jack), Victoria Simmonds (Anna), Darren Jeffery (Simon), Bradley Travis (Sassoon), Sarah Redgwick (Mrs Morrell) and James Way (Davey) and the Garsington Opera Orchestra will be playing.

GARSINGTON OPERA AT WORMSLEY
For the Handel, Debussy, Rossini and Mozart operas, patrons are invited to arrive from 3.30pm to enjoy the gardens and deer park of the Wormsley Estate before performances begin in the early evening. Those arriving early are able to take a short trip in a vintage bus to the 18th century walled garden. On their return, they can enjoy traditional afternoon tea overlooking the cricket pitch, admire the spectacular views across the deer park and lake from the Champagne Bar, or stroll around the opera garden. In the long dinner interval patrons can dine in the elegant restaurant marquee overlooking the famous cricket ground or have a picnic by the lake, in the garden or in one of the private picnic tents. Performances resume as the evening light begins to fade and end by 10.15pm. A minibus service connects with High Wycombe station, a half hour train journey from London.

DIARY OF EVENTS AT WORMSLEY
Semele (new production) 1,3,9,15,24,30 June, 4 July start time 5.55pm
Le nozze di Figaro (recreation) 2,4,8,10,17 June, 3,6,9,11,14,16 July start time 5.25pm
Pelléas et Mélisande (new production) 16,18,22,25,27 June, 1,7 July start time 5.55pm
Il turco in Italia (revival) 26, 29 June, 2,5,8,10,13,15 July start time 5.55pm
Silver Birch (new commission) 28,29,30 July start time 7.30pm (no interval)

 

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