The 2019 Programme

In this, our celebratory tenth year, we have reviewed the screenings of the past nine years and selected what we consider to be legendary performances (we borrowed the term from Arthaus Music because it fits so well!). These are much more than just traditional productions with proper sets and costumes. They feature opera stars at the peak of their careers, who as well as being great singers are also great actors, able to bring the characters they portray convincingly to life. In addition, each production has been staged to provide a convincing backdrop for the performers.

Key to venues:

La Boheme (Puccini), Met. Opera 1982

Sunday 17th February – C.K.
Sunday 24th February – R.A.U.

First shown in September 2010, this is a lavish and entirely realistic production by the great Franco Zeffirelli. It stars a young and passionate José Carreras (Rodolfo), a waif like Teresa Stratas (Mimi) and a wayward but vibrant Renata Scotto (Musetta). The remaining roles are well delineated and blend seamlessly with the principals. Everyone sings and acts with total conviction. In our view, this is the first of several legendary productions scheduled for 2019.

The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart), Met Opera 1999

Sunday 28th April – C.K.
Sunday 12th May – R.A.U.

First shown in September 2012. This is your unique opportunity to see this brilliant production which we “taped” when it was shown on the BBC. Infuriatingly, it has never been released as a commercial DVD and the unofficial copies in circulation do not match the quality of our recording. The cast could not be bettered with Bryn Terfel as Figaro, Cecelia Bartoli as Susannah, Susanne Mentzer as Cherubino and Renée Fleming, The Countess. The sets and costumes are entirely authentic to the period and the production is faithful to the original, while bringing the complex story clearly to life. The orchestra under James Levine give us all the vitality, excitement and pathos that Mozart intended.

Un Ballo in Maschera (Verdi), Salzburg Festival 1990

Sunday 23rd June – C.K.
Sunday 30th June – R.A.U.

This was only ever shown on our residential Opera Holiday in September 2013. Here is a truly great traditional production, never likely to be repeated because of changing fashions in staging. In addition, the action takes place in Sweden, as originally written. The cast is outstanding with Domingo (Gustavo 3rd.), Nucci (Renato), Barstow (Amelia) and Sumi Jo (Oscar) conducted by Sir George Solti. This was filmed live at the Salzburg Festival, so we need say nothing more about the quality.

Opera Rara: Der Freischütz (Weber), 1968

Sunday 21st July – C.K.

Here is something entirely new and never shown before. It is a remarkable film and was an early attempt to present opera as something “real” and not simply a staged performance in a theatre. This enabled the producer to create a much more dramatic result with powerful cinematic effects but also some beautiful settings. Weber’s music perfectly reflects the changing moods throughout the piece and is always tuneful. This is a unique opportunity to see this ground breaking production because it precisely fits our definition of Opera Rara.

Summer Opera Festival

Friday 6th to Sunday 8th September

Full details will be issued to all members nearer the time. In summary, the three works to be presented will be:
  • Friday 6th. Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti) 1992, La Scala. A version was shown solely on the Opera Holiday in 2014 and without subtitles. This one not only has subtitles but is a fully traditional and dramatic performance of the highest standard from La Scala, Milan with Renato Bruson (Lord Ashton) & Mariella Devia (Lucia).

  • Saturday 7th. The Merry Wives of Windsor (Nikolai) 1965. We always try to find one unusual but enjoyable opera to include in our Festival. This is a British studio film version which gives plenty of opportunity for interesting settings and stage “business” in this comic opera. An additional bonus is that it is sung in English and stars the international soprano Lucia Popp in the role of the knowing Mistress Ann.

  • Sunday 8th. La Cenerentola (Rossini) 1981. A version was shown in June 2011. This is quite different, being a sparkling and humorous Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production, full of clever effects and starring Francisco Araiza (Don Ramiro) and Frederica von Stade (Cenerentola). They are well supported by Claudio Desderi (Dandini) and Paul Plishka (Alindoro).

In addition, we plan to include some additional elements and as last year, you will be able to attend whichever parts you like.

Romeo and Juliet (Gounod), 1994

Sunday 22nd September – C.K.
Sunday 29th September – R.A.U.

First shown in March 2011. This is another production that rightly deserves to be shown again. From the ROH in 1994, the Romeo of Roberto Alagna and Juliet of Leontina Vaduva are perfection as the two doomed lovers. Their singing and acting have all the passion the roles demand and they also have the youth and good looks! The sets and costumes are appropriate and convincing, which all adds conviction to the drama. The supporting cast are excellent and a young Robert Lloyd brings appropriate gravitas to the role of Friar Laurence.

Ballet: Coppelia

Sunday 3rd November – R.A.U.

In making our ballet choice, we reviewed everything available on YouTube and one stood out above all the others. This was the 2011 production by the Bolshoi Ballet. There was a combination of energy and grace in the dancing, beautifully colourful costumes, magnificent sets and finally the performance of Natalia Osipova as Swanilda, which was faultless. Comparisons may not be appropriate but looking back, we have featured the excellent Paris Ballet for the past two years, but here we believe we have found something even better!

Operetta: The Merry Widow (Lehar), 2005

Sunday 1st December – C.K.
Sunday 8th December – R.A.U.

First shown in December 2010. In our assessment, this particular production from Mörbisch (Austria) is absolutely definitive and far exceeds all others. The principals are first class and perfectly cast, with beautiful voices and acting ability to match. The costumes and settings are similarly wonderful and the final scene at Maxim’s is a total show stopper. The production makes full use of the vast open air stage and in summary, is the ideal show to conclude our tenth year programme.