English Touring Opera Takes to the Road with Agrippina, Jason and Poppea.

English Touring Opera Takes to the Road with Agrippina, Jason and Poppea.

This autumn, English Touring Opera revisits the baroque era to bring a festival of Venetian opera and music to opera houses, theatres, churches and cathedrals up and down the country.

Returning to the origins of commercial opera, which emerged in Venice in the 17th century, ETO presents three productions which capture the wit, humour and seductive qualities of the era. These are new productions of Handel’s Agrippina and Cavalli’s Jason, together with a revival of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea.

The tour opens at the Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music between Saturday 28 September and Saturday 12 October, then visits eight theatres and another seven churches, cathedrals and concert halls in England until Sunday 24 November.

ETO is working once again with period instrument orchestra The Old Street Band, and alongside the three Venetian operas this season is presenting two concert evenings of Italian sacred music by Handel and Vivaldi, featuring ETO’s soloists and orchestra in collaboration with regional choirs across the country.

As with the company’s Spring 2013 season, Faroese designer Samal Blak is designing the sets and costumes for all three of the Autumn 2013 operas. The lighting designer for the season is Ace McCarron. All three productions are sung in English.

Cavalli’s Jason is loosely based on the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece and was a runaway hit when it premiered in Venice in 1649, proving one of the most popular operas of the 17th century. ETO’s new production is directed by Ted Huffman and conducted by Joseph McHardy, and stars Hannah Pedley as Medea and Clint Van Der Linde as Jason, with Mark Wilde as Apollo.

Monteverdi’s final masterpiece The Coronation of Poppea is often described as his greatest achievement, combining mythic and very human themes. ETO’s production is inspired by Stalin’s Russia, and was originally directed by James Conway in a co-production with the Royal College of Music in November 2012. The revival director this autumn is Oliver Platt, and the conductor is Michael Rosewell. The Coronation of Poppea stars mezzo Helen Sherman as Nero and soprano Paula Sides as Poppea. Young Polish countertenor Michal Czerniawski sings the role of Ottone.

Agrippina is widely regarded as Handel’s first operatic masterpiece, and uses many of the same characters as The Coronation of Poppea. ETO’s new production is conducted by Jonathan Peter Kenny, and sung in English to a translation made specifically for this production by director James Conway. The cast includes Gillian Webster as the eponymous heroine, Andrew Slater as Claudius and Jake Arditti as Nero.

Alongside the Autumn operas, ETO’s singers and orchestra are performing two evenings of baroque sacred music across the country, in collaboration with regional choirs. Both the concerts are conducted by Jonathan Peter Kenny.

Music for a Venetian Orphanage is a concert of music originally written for the celebrated orphan musicians of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, where Vivaldi worked for most of his life. The programme features the Magnificat, whose arias in the original score were inscribed with the name of the orphan girl intended to perform, and the Gloria – Jubilate o amoeni, an elaboration of Vivaldi’s celebrated Gloria in D major with additional text and arias. Music for a Venetian Orphanage is performed at Crediton and Harrogate.

Handel’s Music for Vespers includes Donna che in ciel, written to celebrate the deliverance of Rome from the earthquake of 1703, Il pianto di Maria, an exquisite meditation on the Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross, and the extravagant and daring Dixit Dominus. Music for Vespers is performed in locations including Rochester, Newcastle and Warwick.

James Conway, ETO’s General Director, said: ‘These three operas take us back to the origins of opera as we now know it – as public entertainment, rather than the court performances for aristocrats and scholars that went before. Each was shaped by the intellectual and social life of Venice, and each was premiered during carnival season, where the city’s wit, humour and artistry was at its height.’ He added: ‘The evenings of Handel and Vivaldi sacred music compliment the operas, each in its own way showing off the dazzling virtuosity of the young Handel and the famous “Red Priest” of Venice.

After opening at RCM the the end of September ETO visits Rochester, Aldeburgh, Malvern, Crediton and Bath (October); Harrogate, Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne, Buxton, Sheffield, Warwick, Cambridge and Exeter . More information is available at www.englishtouringopera.org.uk