Preview – Opera Holland Park 2009 [2 June-15 August]

Written by: Michael Darvell

Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux – 2, 4, 6, 10, 12, 18 & 20 June

Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel – 5, 9, 11, 13, 17 & 19 June

Puccini’s La bohème – 27 & 29 June, 1, 3, 5 (matinee at 2 p.m.), 7, 9 & 11 July and 11, 13 & 15 August

Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld – 30 June and 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 & 12 July

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera – 21, 23, 25, 27, 29 & 31 July and 4, 6 & 8 August

Janáček’s Kátya Kabanová – 24, 28 & 30 July and 1, 5 & 7 August

Opera Holland Park has gone from being a small company, when it was formed in 1966 to stage 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. It would now be unthinkable not to have Opera Holland Park’s annual season to brighten up the summer when only the BBC Proms is the major music season in London at the Royal Albert Hall, that other high-profile music-venue in the same London borough.

Opera Holland Park is made possible by the continuing support of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. As well as the local borough’s support, there is also commercial sponsorship courtesy of Korn/Ferry International, one of the world’s leading executive search and management consultants. This is how OHP has managed to keep its ticket prices down to a reasonable level (£10.00 to £54.00) and there are not many houses where you can enjoy opera at a price cheaper than a West End theatre ticket.

The 2009 season gets underway on 2 June with Donizetti‘s Roberto Devereux, an opera that has within living memory only ever been performed in a concert version by Royal Opera. It is the composer’s take on the English Tudor period, telling the story of Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex and their involvement with the Duke and Duchess of Nottingham. American tenor Leonardo Capalbo is in the title role, Majella Cullagh is Elisabetta, Yvonne Howard is the Duchess and Julian Hubbard is the Duke. In a coup for OHP, the company has secured the services of Richard Bonynge as conductor for six of the seven performances. Additionally, Adam Cooper choreographs the production which is directed by Lindsay Posner and designed by Peter McKintosh. It is sung in Italian with English surtitles.

From 5 June Humperdinck‘s popular Hänsel und Gretel joins OHP’s repertoire. Catherine Hopper as Hänsel, Joana Seara as Gretel, Anne Mason as Gertrud and the Witch, and Donald Maxwell as Peter. It is sung in German with English surtitles.

After a break of about a week Puccini‘s La bohème opens on 27 June until July 11. It returns for further performances from 11 August. Mimì is sung by Linda Richardson, Rodolfo by Aldo Di Toro (Sean Ruane in August), Grant Doyle is Marcello (George von Bergen in August), Tim Mirfin is Colline, with Hye-Youn Lee as Musetta. Elaine Kidd directs and Robert Dean conducts. It is sung in Italian with English surtitles.

30 June sees the opening of Offenbach‘s Orpheus in the Underworld, which is sung in English in Jeremy Sams’s translation with Benjamin Segal as Orpheus, Jeni Bern as Eurydice, Daniel Broad as Pluto, Ian Caddy as Jupiter, Nuala Willis as Public Opinion and Jill Pert as Juno. The director is Tom Hawkes, the designer Peter Rice and the choreographer Jenny Weston.

Following on from another week’s break is Un ballo in maschera, Verdi‘s opera of political intrigue and murder, opening on 21 July with Amanda Echalaz as Amelia, Rafael Rojas as Gustavus, Olafur Sigurdarson as Anckarstrom and Gail Pearson as Oscar. Peter Robinson conducts Martin Lloyd Evans’s production with designs by Jamie Vartan. It is sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Finally, from 24 July, Janáček‘s Kátya Kabanová follows OHP’s success with Jenůfa and is sung in Czech with English surtitles. Anne Sophie Duprels sings Kátya, Anne Mason is Kabanicha, Tom Randle is Boris, Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts is Tichon and Patricia Orr is Varvara. Olivia Fuchs directs and Stuart Stratford conducts.

So, two popular works, two less-often-performed pieces, one real rarity and a twentieth-century masterpiece. How’s that for a balanced programme?

It is, however, all down to just two men, General Manager Mike Volpe and Producer James Clutton, who have really put OHP on the map, making it an important international house. This summer should be another landmark season for one of the most enterprising opera companies around.

  • Opera Holland Park box office: 0845 230 9769
  • Tickets are £10.00 to £54.00 with concessions at some performances
  • There is a free-ticket scheme for people aged 9 to 18
  • Opera Holland Park

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