Written by: Amended and edited version of Opera Holland Park's press release
That a company like OHP should produce such works to such acclaim is a remarkable feat of artistic bravery and audiences have rewarded (and have been rewarded by) the company by selling out productions, proving that a significant appetite for these rich and sumptuous melodramas exists in the UK.
Now Opera Holland Park is preparing to unleash the latest offering from this rich musical stable, Riccardo Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini – a glorious, magnificent opera of mesmerising beauty and accomplishment. Starring international soprano Cheryl Barker and Julian Gavin (who recently excelled as Cavaradossi in ENO’s Tosca) and a host of exciting emergent talent, OHP’s Francesca is a rare treat and a significant operatic event this year.
Michael Volpe, General Manager of Opera Holland Park says:
“Opera can easily settle into the stale and dogmatic. The opera audience – or at least a significant part of it – wants to explore the repertoire and develop their tastes. So much unspeakably gorgeous music exists out there but which is simply not being heard and we are proud to have expanded the repertoire in London over the past 12 years or so. As a council-run venue, it is quite remarkable that we should be able to continue to present works whose in-built accessibility and beauty appeals to so many people out there. We have people coming from all over the world to see these works when we do them – which says something about the adventurousness or otherwise of opera companies around the globe.
“Interestingly, these ‘rare’ operas also appeal to those who either don’t know or who listen to opera rarely. That tends to be the case because they don’t have a well-developed taste in opera and haven’t settled into the pattern of the traditional top ten works that lots of audience members do. They hear the music for the first time and find it enormously appealing. It is true to say that many of these composers were not always able to sustain an entire opera or did not have the theatrical sensibilities of Puccini or Verdi who managed to continue producing great works for decades. But, in my view, there are countless sections in these operas – and especially Francesca – whose music surpasses pretty much anything Puccini or Verdi wrote. And that is, I think, what audiences love – they find themselves pinned to their seats by passages of music that are more beautiful than anything they may have already heard! It is a terribly exciting thing to see thousands of people discovering this for the first time.”
Francesca da Rimini is based on a Gabriele D’Annunzio poem which was itself extracted from a section of Dante’s Inferno. It is all about war, love, duplicity and murder on a grand scale (typical of these composers) and brings to the stage a potent, shimmering soundscape with magical writing for the orchestra and chorus.