English Touring Opera Take Haydn, Handel and Bach on Tour this Autumn


English Touring Opera Take Haydn, Handel and Bach on Tour this Autumn


Fresh from winning the 2014 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, English Touring Opera is busy preparing for its autumn/fall tour. Working once again with period instrument orchestra The Old Street Band it will present a season ranging between the baroque and classical eras. The company’s two new opera productions are Haydn’s Il mondo della Luna (Life on the Moon) and Handel’s Ottone. Alongside these operas ETO performs evening concerts of cantatas composed by J.S. Bach for Advent, which see the company’s soloists and orchestra working with regional choirs across the country.

The tour opens from Friday 17 – Saturday 18 October 2014 at the Hackney Empire, London E8 before visiting a further twelve opera houses, theatres, cathedrals and concert halls across England until Sunday 23 November. Designer Takis is designing the sets and costumes for both the season’s operas.

Life on the Moon was written by Haydn during his period as Kapellmeister or music director of the hugely powerful Hungarian noble house of Esterházy, and was first performed in 1777 at the family’s vast Esterháza palace in Hungary. The action sees a young heiress and her maid teaming up with a quack astronomer and his servant to trick her wealthy father out of his fortune. In one of the earliest examples of science fiction in opera, their confidence trick involves persuading the miserly father that he has been transported to the Moon.

ETO’s new production is directed by Cal McCrystal, who was the Comedy Director for the West End hit comedy One Man, Two Guvnors. The opera’s highly comic libretto is by noted Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni – who also wrote the play Servant of Two Masters, itself the inspiration for One Man, Two Guvnors. ETO’s production is sung in English to a new translation by James Conway. The opera is conducted by Christopher Bucknall, and stars Christopher Turner as the bogus astronomer Ecclitico, Andrew Slater as the wealthy miser Buonafede and Jane Harrington as his daughter Clarice. The production also stars Ronan Busfield as Ecclitico’s servant Cecco and Martha Jones as Clarice’s maid Lisetta.

Ottone is regarded as one of Handel’s finest serious operas, and was first performed in London in 1723 at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. The story centres on Ottone’s betrothal to the Byzantine princess Teofane, and the plot features a bloody coup, multiple mistaken identities, and repeated captures and recaptures, before all its characters are reunited in a wave-swept sea-cave setting. A huge success during Handel’s lifetime, the opera includes three highly complex female characters, and several arias which are regularly performed in concert, including the dazzling ‘Falsa immagine’.

ETO’s production stars Clint van der Linde in the title role, Andrew Radley as the rebellious Adelberto, Gillian Webster as his manipulative mother Gismonda and Louise Kemeny as the princess Teofane, betrothed to Ottone. The production also stars Rosie Aldridge as Adelberto’s fiancée Matilda, while Grant Doyle and Johnny Herford share the role of the pirate Emireno. It is directed by the company’ general director James Conway – who has written a new English translation of the libretto – and conducted by baroque specialist Jonathan Peter Kenny.

ETO’s series of Advent Cantatas by Bach continues the company’s tradition of regular collaboration with regional choirs, who join with ETO’s soloists, The Old Street Band to perform evening concerts of cantatas written for the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The repertoire includes two strongly contrasted settings of Martin Luther’s great chorale ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’ (‘Now come, saviour of the heathens’), and the joyful ‘Herz und Munt und Tat und Leben’ (‘Heart, mouth, deed and life’), the original setting for the celebrated chorale ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’. Jonathan Peter Kenny conducts.

Soloists will be Gillian Webster (soprano), Andrew Radley (countertenor), Ronan Busfield (tenor), Grant Doyle (baritone; until 8 November), Johnny Herford (baritone; from 8 November) wsho will be join ed by the following choirs: Sun 19 October –  Rochester Cathedral Choir at Rochester; Sun 26 October – Cantamus Chamber Choir at Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon; Sun 2 November – Sheffield Cathedral Choirs, The University of Sheffield Chamber Choir at Firth Hall, Sheffield; Sun 23 November  –  Gentlemen of Exeter Cathedral’s Choir, Isca Voices, Cathedral Consort.

After premiering at the Hackney Empire the operas will go on tour to  Cambridge, Bath and Harrogate (in October);  Durham, Buxton, Malvern, Aldeburgh and Exeter (in November).

For more details consult englishtouringopera.org.uk.

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