Preview – Opera Holland Park 2008 [3 June-9 August]

Written by: Michael Darvell

Verdi’s “Il trovatore” – June 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 & 20

Donizetti’s “La fille du regiment” – June 4, 6, 11, 13, 17, 19 & 21

Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” – June 28 & 30 and July 2, 4, 6 (2 p.m.), 8, 10 & 12

Puccini’s “Tosca” – July 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 & 13

Ponchielli’s “La gioconda” – July 22, 24, 26 & 30 and August 1, 5, 7 & 9

Stravinsky’s Pulcinella (ballet) & Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” – July 25, 29 & 31 and August 2, 6 & 8

All performances begin at 7.30 p.m. (unless stated)

Since it was formed in 1996, Opera Holland Park has gone from being a small company staging popular works to being what it is today, a truly international company presenting a mixture of standard repertoire and some operatic rarities in its programming. It would now be unthinkable not to have Opera Holland Park’s annual season to brighten up the English summer at the time of year when only The Proms form the major music season in London. It is all made possible by the continuing support of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea which never fails to underwrite these annual operatic treats in what is probably the most expensive art form to sponsor. Opera Holland Park is a massive feather in the cap of Kensington and Chelsea, providing an amenity not only for local residents but also for the avid audience outside the borough itself. No other London borough does quite the same for its local artistic portfolio.

One assumes that the Council see Opera Holland Park as something that keeps the borough on the map as well as providing something that attracts huge audiences benefiting businesses in the borough, not least shops, bars and restaurants. Actually Holland Park is one of the pleasantest spots to spend a summer evening, whether you are there for the music or not. If you are booking for the opera season, however, you can also enjoy your own picnic or order one from the resident caterers.

As well as the local borough supporting the season, there is also commercial sponsorship courtesy of Korn/Ferry International, one of the world’s leading executive search and management consultants, who came on board last year and have committed to the season for a further two years. The City of London Sinfonia returns for the fifth year running as the company’s resident orchestra.

Since 1988 the Holland Park Theatre was housed under a high tensile fabric canopy. This was planned to last from 15 to 20 years and it served the theatre well. Holland Park Theatre is the only ‘open air’ theatre to have more-or-less complete coverage against the elements. Hitherto, with its open sides, however, it has sometimes been a little draughty and has let the noise of the outside world seep in, such as overhead aircraft and the calls of the peacocks that roam around the park. Last year the canopy was replaced by a new structure offering a 1,000-capacity seating-structure (200 extra seats with more legroom), comfortable seating, integrated public spaces and hospitality facilities including a mezzanine floor in the foyer.

There were, however, some teething troubles last year. The opening night fielded an absolute downpour which leaked in at the sides of the new structure, but on the whole it was a great improvement and the Holland Park Theatre is now a very comfortable place to a watch any performance. This is very much a people’s palace for opera and dance with better acoustics and sight-lines, while the entrance and exit facilities have also been improved.

Far from having a huge staff to keep the shows on the road, Opera Holland Park is run by General Manager Mike Volpe and Producer James Clutton, who have come up with another winning season beginning on Tuesday 3 June with Verdi’s “Il trovatore” conducted by Brad Cohen and with a cast that includes Katarina Jovanovic, Rafael Rojas, Anne Mason and Stephen Gadd. The next production is Donizetti’s “La fille du regiment” from 4 June. William Kerley’s production is conducted by Robert Dean, with Hye-Youn Lee as Marie, Luciano Botelho as Tonio, Graeme Broadbent as Sulpice and Stefan Holmström as Hortensius.

“The Magic Flute”, sung in English, follows on 28 June, conducted by Jane Glover and directed by Simon Callow. Andrew Staples sings Tamino, Fflur Wyn is Pamina, Tim Mirfin is Sarastro, and Penelope Randall-Davis the Queen of the Night. In repertory from 1 July is Puccini’s “Tosca” with Amanda Echalaz in the title role, Sean Ruane as Cavaradossi and Nicholas Garrett as Scarpia. Philip Thomas conducts, Stephen Barlow directs. Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda” opens on 22 July with Gweneth-Ann Jeffers in the title role, Yvonne Howard as Laura Adorno, David Soar as Alvise Badoero, Nuala Willis as La Cieca and Olafur Sigurdason as Barnaba, with Peter Robinson conducting Martin Lloyd-Evans’s staging.

The final production of the season, from July 25, is Tchaikovsky’s rarely performed one-act opera “Iolanta”, sung in Russian, with Orla Boyal as Iolanta, Mikhail Svetlov as King René and Peter Auty as Vaudémon. Stuart Stratford conducts, Annilese Miskimmon directs. Preceding the opera is a performance of Stravinsky’s ballet, Pulcinella, choreographed by Regina Wielingen, with Carole Wilson, Aled Hall and Keel Watson as the singers.

  • Opera Holland Park box office: 0845 230 9769
  • Tickets are £10.00 to £52.00 with concessions at some performances. There is a free-ticket scheme for young people from age 9 to 18
  • Opera Holland Park

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