The 2020 Programme

After our celebratory year when we included a few legendary performances from earlier Bijou years, this time we have tried to bring you a virtually new and original programme. Although three operas are repeats, the actual productions are quite different from those originally shown, while all else has never been screened before. As always, we continue to bring you great productions from past decades, which this coming year ranging from 1975 up to 2014, and exceptionally 2019. Naturally, each performance selected had to meet our long established standards of great singing actors with proper sets and costumes, all placed within a traditional production. There is no change to our two venues and all performances will continue to take place on a Sunday afternoon, starting at 2.30pm. The option of a traditional Sunday lunch with wine and tea/coffee continues unchanged.

Note: Due to the current health situation, screenings may be subject to cancellation at short notice.

Key to venues:

Aida Busetto (Verdi), 2001

Sunday 16th February – C.K.
Sunday 23rd February – R.A.U.

Busetto was Verdi’s home town and the theatre was built there by the local populace to honour him. Each year a singing competition takes place for young professional opera performers. In this remarkable production, directed by the legendary Franco Zeffirelli, he manages to capture the essence of this grand opera and fit it within the confines of the modest theatre. In addition, all the cast are young professionals who, under his direction, produce results of astonishing quality.

La Fille du Regiment (Donizetti), 1996

Sunday 19th April – C.K.
Sunday 26th April – R.A.U.

Filmed live at La Scala Milan, it was originally written and performed in Paris (1840) so that its style is very much that that of the French opera comique. To highlight this aspect, the producer deliberately used a storybook setting, with appropriate scenery by Franco Zeffirelli. It follows that this chocolate box regiment has never seen any real fighting but is very good at singing about it and bringing up the orphan Marie, La Fille du Regiment. Mariella Devia is well able to tackle the demands of the title role, while Austin Kelly demonstrates his singing abilities with the legendary nine high C’s. Here is a delightful and gentle production that makes a complete change from the more serious operas in the rest of the programme.

The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach), 1981

Sunday 14th June – C.K.
Sunday 21st June – R.A.U.

What an outstanding production from the great days of The Royal Opera House! The cast could not be bettered with a young Placido Domingo in the title role and in his prime as a singer and actor. His three doomed loves are played by Luciana Serra, Agnes Baltsa and Ilena Contrubas, each bringing their own unique qualities to the characters. Key supporting roles are taken by our own Robert Lloyd (Lindorf), Robert Tear (Spalanzini) and Geraint Evans (Coppelius). There were clearly no budget constraints in this no expenses spared production, with magnificent costumes and beautifully detailed sets and effects. The Powell and Pressburger film version was screened back in 2014 but this is the full and complete opera, with Offenbach’s unique and enchanting music.

Opera Rara: Mirelle (Gounod), 2009

Sunday 26th July – C.K. only

In keeping with our intentions for Opera Rara to present something rarely performed but unjustly neglected, this special performance comes from the Paris National Opera at the Palais Garner. In writing this piece, Gounod was keen to move away from the style of grand opera with its fanciful plots and was attracted to the story of rural folk in the region of Arles. It is said he used the themes of local folk music to give specific colour to his composition.

Summer Opera Festival

C.K. only

  • Friday 21st. La Forza del Destino (Verdi) 1978. True grand opera needs great performers to match. In this production from La Scala, the cast cannot be faulted with Montserrat Caballe, Jose Carreras, Piero Cappuccilli, Sesto Bruscantini and Nicolai Ghiaurov. In addition, this is the complete version without the usual cuts.
  • Saturday 22nd. Eugene Onegin (Tchaichovsky) 1988. Shot in and around Prague, this feature film version makes full use of the beautiful settings and landscapes. This is our first Tchaikovsky opera and depending on the level of attendance, other operas from this composer may follow.

  • Sunday 23rd. Cosi fan Tutte (Mozart) 1975. A version of this opera was shown in 2016. Here is something different, a delightful Glyndebourne production, still traditional but given a quite different treatment. Look out for a young Thomas Allen!

Manon Lescaut (Puccini), 1983

Sunday 20th September – C.K.
Sunday 27th September – R.A.U.

From The Royal Opera House we have another example of a time when opera was done on a grand scale and to the highest standard. In this tragic tale, Kiri Te Kanawa is magnificent in the title role, with Placido Domingo giving a moving performance as her lover (Des Grieux). Thomas Allen provides excellent support as Manon’s caring brother. The brilliant Italian conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli does full justice to Puccini’s affecting music. Naturally each set is totally realistic and costumes are entirely appropriate to each scene.

Ballet: Don Quixote, 2014

Sunday 1st November – R.A.U. only

This ballet from La Scala, Milan is shown in the legendary choreography of Rudolf Nureyev where he chose to meld the worlds of commedia dell’arte and classical ballet to create an unrivalled visual spectacle. The two leads, Natalia Osipova (Kitri/Dulcinea) and Leonid Sarafanov (Basilio) are quite outstanding, with excellent support provided by the rest of the cast and chorus. Mention has to be made of Giuseppe Conte (Don Quixote) who brings an element of pathos to the role which can otherwise too readily become mere comedy. The costumes are colourful and authentic, with visually stunning sets. The enchanting music is by Ludwig Minkus, who also composed La Bayadere (shown in October ’18).

The Land of Smiles (Lehar), 2019

Sunday 29th November – C.K.
Sunday 6th December – R.A.U.

Here is the very latest from the (Austrian) Morbisch Festival, which with a change of Intendant brings a happy return to its traditional outstanding levels of production. There is all the oriental glamour that the story demands, with sets and costumes that transport us to the exotic location of Peking. For additional authenticity, the role of Prince Sou-Chong is performed by a true oriental, as are the two related supporting roles. Of course, there is the show stopping aria Dein ist mein ganzes Herz, as well as much else to enjoy. The orchestra effortlessly give us the delightful melodies of Franz Lehar that make this performance such an enjoyable experience.