Key to venues:
- C.K. – Stanton Suite, Church Piece, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham
- R.A.U. – Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester.
New Year’s Day Concert, Vienna
Sunday 19th February – C.K.
Every year (since the start of Bijou in January 2010) this has been shown and the tradition continues with the 2017 concert. In the dark days of winter, there is something bright and joyful about this type of music to lift your mood on a grey afternoon.
La Traviata by Verdi
Sunday 9th April – R.A.U.
Sunday 30th April – C.K.
This is a definitive and traditional production with historically accurate sets and gorgeous costumes. Renée Fleming is perfect as the doomed courtesan Violetta. She uses her age and experience to convey the character’s growing recognition of a life wasted on high living and shallow vanity. Joseph Calleja (Alfredo Germont) embodies the blind passion and idealism of youth, which contrasts with the censure of Pere Germont (Thomas Hampson). Each of them are performers of the highest order and the production beautifully and sensitively unfolds to the ultimate tragedy.
Pagliacci by Leoncavallo & Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni
Sunday 4th June – R.A.U.
Sunday 2nd July – C.K.
Rather than present this double bill from a single production, a deliberate decision was made to select two quite different performances, to provide an interesting comparison.
Pagliacci dates from 1965 and was directed and conducted by the legendary Herbert von Karajan. This was not a theatre production but was filmed on a set, designed to give maximum realism to this dark and dramatic tale. Jon Vickers gives a definitive performance as Canio, the leader of a group strolling players who (correctly) suspects his wife of infidelity. Peter Glossop is the epitome of evil as he subtly provokes the jealous Canio, who then drives events to their powerful conclusion.
Cavalleria Rusticana dates from 1981 and was directed by a master of the Italian cinema, Franco Zeffirelli. For maximum realism, he shot this on location in Sicily. A young Placido Domingo is perfect as the youthful and impetuous Turiddu who destroys the love of his betrothed, Santuzza (Elena Obraztsova), in pursuit of another man’s wife. With the wronged husband played superbly by Renato Bruson, this can only end badly!
Opera Rara. Zar und Zimmermann (Czar and Carpenter) by Lortzing
Sunday 23rd July – C.K.
This is a delightful opera that deserves to be better known. It dates from the mid 19th Century and is by the German composer Lortzing. It is easily likeable, being tuneful and melodious throughout. The story is amusing and gently romantic, with no villains, instead there is a pompous official, who by the end is inevitably made to look ridiculous! The production is by Hamburg State Opera and dates from 1969. The only international star is Lucia Popp who is well supported by the other principals. This is a studio production which enabled the filming to be more flexible and expansive. The sets, costumes and action are authentic to the period and the story even has an element of historical truth.
Orfeo and Eurydice by Gluck
Sunday 3rd September – R.A.U.
Sunday 24th September – C.K.
Here is a rare opportunity to see the great opera star, the mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker in her farewell performance at Glyndebourne in 1982. Opera productions from this period can be tedious to watch because directors too often present these in a stylised manner. However in this case, the production is powerful and dramatic, full of real life emotions and where the music of Gluck resonates with depth and feeling. There is also a brief, thoughtful introduction by Janet Baker where she touches on the very human elements in the story which are timeless.
Ballet. The Sleeping Beauty by Tchaikovsky
Sunday 5th November – R.A.U.
Here is a ballet production to delight the eye and ear. Everything about it is of the highest quality, the astonishing standard of dancing, the gorgeous costumes, magnificent sets and excellent orchestral playing by the Opera National of Paris. The choreography is by Rudolf Nureyev, after Marius Peptia. In particular, look out for the outstanding performance of Aurélie Dupont in the role of Princess Aurore (The Sleeping Beauty).
The Count of Luxemburg by Lehar
Sunday 24th November – C.K.
Sunday 3rd December – R.A.U.
Here is another excellent production from the Austrian Morbisch Summer Festival, this time from 2006. The action is set in the Montmartre district of Paris in the 1920’s, with convincing scenery that perfectly recaptures everything in the smallest detail. There is a delightful collection of theatrical characters, romantic encounters and comic situations. Naturally the singers are in the first rank and bring their various roles to life, without resorting to exaggeration or pantomime. As always, the playing of Lehar’s music by the orchestra is of the highest standard and the whole production is a delightful way to conclude the programme for the year.