NEW! Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020

16/10/2019

Grange Park Opera’s 2020 season

The 2020 season combines mainstays & eyebrow-raisers: the traditional and the unexpected. Sitting firmly in the latter category is a world première, The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko, promising to be one of the most discussed events of the summer.

The trump card is Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, one of the grandest of all Italian grand operas, demanding an array of vocal powerhouses. The season is rounded off by La bohème and Meet Me in St Louis and on the very last night, Grange Park Opera welcomes gorgeously costumed guest artists from The Royal Ballet.

La Gioconda (Ponchielli) 7 June – 12 July

This verismo blockbuster was last performed in the UK in 2008. Maltese superstar tenor Joseph Calleja comes to Surrey fresh from Simon Boccanegra at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

When first staged at La Scala, Milan – the model for the Theatre in the Woods – it became the most successful new Italian opera between Verdi’s Aida (1871) and Otello (1887). It ran and ran.

Set in Venice during Carnival, ballad-singer Gioconda has the misfortune to have caught the eye of Barnaba, a spy for the Inquisition. Alas, she is in love with Enzo. Her rival for Enzo’s heart is Laura who performs an act of great compassion. But for Gioconda it must end in death.

The distinguished cast also includes South-African soprano Amanda Echalaz as Gioconda and  Ruxandra Dunose as Laura, Enzo’s love.

Meet Me in St Louis (Songs by Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane) 6 June – 2 July

Meet Me in St Louis is one of MGM’s most endearing musicals with Judy Garland at the peak of her career and a rip-roaring score containing showstoppers Meet Me in St Louis, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Under the Bamboo Tree – and, of course, the clang-clanging crowd-pleaser, The Trolley Song.

The plot centres on a well-to-do family, the Smiths. It’s 1903 and they are looking forward to the World’s Fair in St Louis, the moment when the international spotlight will shine on the city. But amidst the excitement, the two elder Smith daughters, Rose and Esther, are in agony: waiting for their boyfriends to declare their love. Meanwhile there’s another fly in the ointment: could they be forced to change their lives by leaving St Louis?

Grange Park Opera is famed for its reinvigoration of musicals. Previous hits include Oklahoma!, Oliver! and Fiddler on the Roof. Meet Me in St Louis, directed by Jo Davies, will be no exception.

La bohème (Puccini) 20 June – 19 July

Regularly voted as the world’s favourite opera – Puccini’s evocation of life, love and death in Bohemian Paris at the turn of the century has had audiences weeping into their handkerchiefs ever since its premiére in 1896.

When Rodolfo, a penniless poet, meets Mimì, a seamstress, they fall passionately in love. But their happiness is threatened when Rodolfo learns that Mimì is gravely ill.

American tenor Cody Austin plays Rodolfo with Irish soprano Ailish Tynan as Mimi. Gyula Nagy is painter Marcello and Gemma Summerfield his quarrelsome, needy girlfriend, Musetta.

The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko (composer: Anthony Bolton; libretto: Kit Hesketh-Harvey – a world premiére) 16 & 18 July

Staging new opera is the lifeblood of any company. The 2020 season includes a world première on a most controversial subject: the poisoning of a Russian dissident.

Exiled and living in London, former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko becomes Putin’s most ebullient and needling critic. He learns that former colleagues are using his face for target practice; a law is passed that allows Russian traitors to be killed anywhere in the world.

Just a few months later – in November 2006 – Litvinenko is poisoned with radioactive polonium-210.

This real-life story is told through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards covering events in Russia that lead Litvinenko to seek exile, and his family’s life in Muswell Hill.

The cast includes Andrew Watts (Head of the FSB), Andrew Slater (Boris Berezovsky), Adrian Dwyer (Alexander Litvinenko), Rebecca Bottone (Marina Litvinenko).

With full chorus and a 52-piece orchestra, Bolton’s musical language is contemporary, yet incorporates the lyrical tradition of the Russian masters. He quotes from both opera and normal life: an army marching song, a Moscow football team anthem and the Chechen national anthem. The opera is in English with some Russian choruses.

Final Fling: Ballet in the Woods – guests artists from The Royal Ballet 19 July

This is an opportunity to see some of the world’s finest dancers in the intimate setting of The Theatre in the Woods for a unique dance celebration to close the 2020 season. The dancers will present an enticing selection of works from the ballet repertoire, embracing both the well-known and the unexpected, in a programme specially designed to highlight the dancers’ technical brilliance and versatility, and allow the audience to enjoy performances of dramatic intensity, infectious humour and pure artistry.

Grange Park Opera website click here

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