Opera Holland Park 2011 Preview [7 June-13 August]

Written by: Michael Darvell

The 2011 Opera Holland Park Season

Donizetti’s Don Pasquale – 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 18, 22 & 24 June

Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz – 10, 15, 17, 21, 23 & 25 (at 8 p.m.) June

Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro – 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 (at 2 p.m.), 12, 14 & 16 July

Puccini’s La Rondine – 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15 & 17 July

Verdi’s Rigoletto – 26, 28 & 30 July and 2, 4, 6, 11 & 13 August

Catalani’s La Wally – 29 July and 3, 5, 10 & 12 August

Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr Fox – matinees only on 14 & 19 June, 28 & 30 July and 2, 3, 6, 9, 10 & 13 August

Performances at 7.30 p.m. except were indicated

Opera Holland Park marks its fifteenth year with another excellent programme of familiar works mixed with relative rarities. This annual season of summer opera performances dates from 1996 when Opera Holland Park was officially formed, although there were productions staged at Holland Park Theatre from 1988 when a temporary canopy was erected over the theatre space so that venue was fully covered but open at the sides. At that time Holland Park Theatre had been used for all kinds of music but from 1989 it concentrated solely on opera, inviting small opera companies to stage touring productions. Since 2007 a more substantial canopy and improved seating were introduced.

Gradually an audience built up that supported the summer fare, with artistic developments sought to raise the profile of what has now become one of the most improved opera companies, which continues to go from strength to strength. This was how Opera Holland Park was born, to create its own productions, under the keen guidance of Michael Volpe and James Clutton, who attract international opera singers to perform with OHP. The Royal London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has long supported the company together with other sponsors over the years.

In the past fifteen years OHP has become a force to be reckoned with, not only in its fine staging of the standard repertoire but also in fielding rarely performed works such as Mascagni’s Iris, Cilea’s L’arlesiana, Delibes’s Lakmé, Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re, Ponchielli’s La gioconda and Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini. For the 2011 season, with new sponsorship from Investec Wealth & Management, each of the six operas is a new production, with the relative rarities being Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, Puccini’s La rondine and Catalani’s La Wally, the last being the first-ever production of this work by Opera Holland Park. City of London Sinfonia, now the resident orchestra, is playing throughout the season.

The season opens on 7 June with another first for Opera Holland Park, Don Pasquale. Following last season’s eightieth-birthday gala-concert for Richard Bonynge, he returns to conduct Donizetti’s opera which has Donald Maxwell in the title role, Richard Burkhard as Dr Malatesta, Colin Lee as Ernesto and Majella Cullagh as Norina in Stephen Barlow’s production. It is, as all this season’s operas are, sung in Italian with English surtitles. The same week, from 10 June, sees Annilese Miskimmon producing L’amico Fritz, conducted by Stuart Stratford. The cast includes Eric Margiore as Fritz, Anna Leese as Suzel, David Stephenson as David and Patricia Orr as Beppe in the follow-up to Cavalleria rusticana, a tale of landowner Fritz and his bet with a friend that he would never marry. Then he meets Suzel who is engaged to another…

The second pair of operas are Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro from 2 July with Matthew Hargreaves as Figaro, Claire Meghnagi as Susanna, George von Bergen as Count Almaviva, Elizabeth Llewellyn as the Countess, Hannah Pedley as Cherubino and Lynton Black as Doctor Bartolo. Matthew Willis conducts Liam Steel’s production. Puccini’s La Rondine enters from 5 July with Kate Ladner as Magda, Sean Ruáne as Ruggero, Hye Youn Lee as Lisette, Hal Cazalet as Prunier and Nicholas Todorovic as Rambaldo in a piece that has come back to the repertory no doubt because of the popularity of the aria ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’ and the Act Two chorus ‘Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso’. Tom Hawkes directs and Peter Selwyn conducts.

Rigoletto opens on 26 July directed by Lindsay Posner, with Robert Poulton as the jester, Julia Sporsén as Gilda, Jaewoo Kim as the Duke, Graeme Broadbent as Sparafucile and Patricia Orr as Maddalena. Stratford again conducts. The final opera in the main season is Catalani’s La Wally, from 29 July, with Gweneth-Ann Jeffers as Wally, Stephen Richardson as Stromminger, Heather Shipp as Afra and Alinka Kozari as Walter. This is a new production of a work that has made OHP famous. Jeffers returns following her success for last year in La forza del destino. Peter Robinson conducts Martin Lloyd Evans’s production which should be the culmination of a very good summer indeed.

For younger audiences there’s the return of Fantastic Mr Fox, Tobias Picker’s opera based on the story by Roald Dahl which was commissioned by Opera Holland Park for performance on the Yucca Lawn. Extra events include the Nomad Summer Screening Weekend on 19-21 August with showings of classic films: Some Like It Hot, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Cinema Paradiso.

After fifteen years developing a company as good as Opera Holland Park, it is surely time for some recognition for Volpe and Clutton who have produced marvellous work sometimes on an impressive scale but with fairly limited resources. Perhaps the Olivier Awards committee should be looking to West London for its Opera Award rather than a pub theatre in NW6.

  • OHP
  • Opera Holland Park Box Office 0300 999 1000 (boxoffice@operahollandpark.com)
  • Tickets £46.50 to £63.50 with some concessions, and a free ticket scheme for people from age 9 to 18, part of the INSPIRE Project

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