Opera Holland Park 2010 Preview [1 June-14 August]

Written by: Michael Darvell

The 2010 Opera Holland Park Season

Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande – 1, 3, 9, 11 & 16 June at 7.30 p.m.

Bizet’s Carmen – 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 15, 17, 18 & 19 June at 7.30 p.m.

Mozart’s Don Giovanni – 28, 30 June, 2, 4 (matinee only at 2 p.m.), 6, 8, 10, 12 & 14 July at 7.30 p.m.

Beethoven’s Fidelio – 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 & 13 July at 7.30 p.m.

Verdi’s La forza del destino – 27, 29 & 31 July and 4, 6, 10, 12 & 14 August at 7.30 p.m.

Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini – 30 July, 5, 7, 9, 11 & 13 August at 7.30 p.m.

Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr Fox – 26, 29 & 31 July and 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 & 14 August at 3 p.m.

Opera Holland Park has grown from being a small company in 1966 when it was formed to stage traditional and popular works for the residents of Kensington and Chelsea, to being what is now a truly international company presenting both standard repertoire and operatic rarities in its programming. It would now be unthinkable not to have Opera Holland Park’s annual summer season. However, it is made possible only by the continuing support of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea which underwrites the annual opera season that attracts not only local residents but also audiences from beyond. Opera Holland Park couldn’t possibly survive without its sponsors, which, apart from the local borough, also includes Winton Capital Management, Associated Newspapers, the Phillimore Kensington Estate, Rensburg Sheppards Investment Management and Classic FM. This has enabled OHP to keep its ticket prices down to a reasonable level from £10.00 to a top price of £57.00 (some are even lower) which is certainly cheaper than tickets for most West End musicals.

Since 1988 the Holland Park Theatre was housed under a high tensile fabric canopy. A few years ago, however, the canopy was replaced by a structure offering comfortable seating for 1,000 people, integrated public spaces and hospitality facilities including a mezzanine floor in the foyer. The Holland Park Theatre is now a very comfortable place to a watch any performance and is very much a people’s palace for opera.

The 2010 season comprises six new and one revival production. Four are new to Opera Holland Park and most are from the standard opera repertoire so should prove popular. Once again the City of London Sinfonia is the resident orchestra, proving yet again that it is one of the best opera orchestras in the country.

The season opens on June 1 with Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, with Palle Knudsen and Anne Sophie Duprels (something of an OHP discovery) in the title roles. Alan Opie sings Golaud and Anne Mason is Geneviève in this first for OHP. The conductor of Olivia Fuchs’s production is Brad Cohen.

A new production of Bizet’s Carmen follows from June 2, with Tara Venditti and Hannah Pedley sharing the title role (with Pedley also singing Mercédès at some performances). Sean Ruane and Mark Panuccio appear as Don José, Julia Sporsen and Susan Young sing Micaela, David Stephenson is Escamillo. Matthew Willis conducts Jonathan Fenby’s production. There is a charity gala performance on 8 June in aid of The Rugby Portobello Trust.

The next two operas at OHP are Mozart’s Don Giovanni (from June 28) and Beethoven’s Fidelio (from July1). The Mozart has Nicholas Garrett in the title role, Ana James as Donna Anna, Laura Mitchell as Donna Elvira, Matthew Hargreaves as Leporello, Thomas Walker as Don Ottavio and Claire Wild as Zerlina. Stephen Barlow directs; Robert Dean conducts. The Beethoven has Yvonne Howard as Leonore, Tom Randle as Florestan, Stephen Richardson as Rocco and Nicky Spence as Jaquino. Peter Robinson conducts Olivia Fuchs’s revival production from 2003.

Joining the repertory from July 26 is Fantastic Mr Fox, Tobias Picker’s opera based on the story by Roald Dahl with a libretto by Donald Sturrock. This is a new version of the piece commissioned by OHP and designed to be performed in the gardens and natural scenery of Holland Park. Aimed at an essentially young or family audience, it plays matinees only at 3 p.m. Grant Doyle and Olivia Ray play Mr and Mrs Fox, Carl Penlington-Williams conducts and Stephen Barlow directs.

The last pair of operas at Holland Park this year are, from July 27, Verdi’s La forza del destino and, from July 30, Francesca da Rimini by Riccardo Zandonai. This is the first time the Verdi has been staged by OHP. It has Gweneth Anne Jeffers as Leonora, Peter Auty as Don Alvaro, Mark Stone as Don Carlo, Carole Wilson as Preziosilla and Donald Maxwell as Fra Melitone. Stuart Stratford conducts Martin Duncan’s production.

Francesca da Rimini was the most popular piece that Zandonai wrote. He was thought to be the successor to Puccini but never quite achieved that status. Francesca was written in 1914 and in the following sixty years it notched up some two-hundred performances in twenty productions around the world. Based on a story from Dante’s Inferno, Francesca da Rimini is basically an illicit love-story between Francesca (Cheryl Barker) and Paolo (Julian Gavin), brother of Gianciotto, Lord of Rimini, to whom Francesca is engaged, although she has never seen him. Paolo’s brother, Malatestino, is also in love with Francesca and plots to have the lovers assassinated. Martin Lloyd-Evans’s production is conducted by Philip Thomas. It will be interesting to see if this now relatively rare opera stands up to its former reputation.

The 2010 Opera Holland Park season is offering a very attractive programme, which may possibly prove to be its most successful ever in terms of popularity. It is all the work of just two men, the indefatigable General Manager Mike Volpe and Producer James Clutton, who have made Opera Holland Park the success it is today, an important player in the world of opera and one that can command international artists of the highest calibre.

Finally, there is an 80th-birthday charity gala for conductor Richard Bonynge on 13 June at 7.45 p.m. Artists involved include Cheryl Barker, Conal Coad, Majella Cullagh, Aldo Di Toro, Anne Sophie Duprels, Amanda Echalaz, Lesley Garrett, Julian Gavin, Yvonne Howard, Yvonne Kenny, Donald Maxwell, Sally Silver and Sir John Tomlinson. Bonynge conducts the City of London Sinfonia. Tickets are £35.00-£65.00. For details of the Friends of OHP gala dinner telephone 020 7361 3910.

  • Opera Holland Park Box Office: 0845 230 9769
  • OHP
  • Tickets are £10.00 to £57.00 with concessions at some performances. There is a free ticket scheme for young people from age 9 to 18, part of the OHP INSPIRE Project which also organises community, educational and outreach programmes

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