Saffron Opera Group’s 10th anniversary Die Meistersinger at Saffron Hall on 15 September 2024

SUNDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 2024, 2pm, at Saffron Hall

‘Intense and shattering… Who would want to go to Bayreuth when they can go to Saffron Hall?’ The Spectator

To celebrate ten years of extraordinary ambition and unparalleled success since its inaugural performance of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in 2014, the internationally acclaimed Saffron Opera Group proudly presents Wagner’s comic masterpiece for the second time. Cast with beloved SOG favourites and exciting newcomers making company debuts, the production promises to be the company’s most memorable yet.

The story takes place in sixteenth-century Nuremburg, among a group of craftsmen who belong to a guild of amateur musicians: they are known as ‘mastersingers’, and their leader is the cobbler Hans Sachs. One of their number, the goldsmith Pogner, has promised his daughter Eva in marriage to the winner of their next singing competition. The pernickety and desiccated town clerk, Beckmesser, is widely expected to win (much to Eva’s disgust), until a knight arrives in the city who brings revolutionary new ideas about music and art. He falls in love with Eva, and with Sachs’s help, he defeats Beckmesser and wins the townspeople over to his adventurous new style of singing. He and Eva are united in love and happiness.

Welsh bass-baritone Paul Carey Jones takes the pivotal and demanding role of Hans Sachs. A singer of enormous charisma and power, his Wagnerian performances at Longborough Festival Opera have earned him stellar reviews. ‘A figure of huge authority, and splendidly imposing of voice’ said The Telegraph of his performance of Wotan/Wanderer. ‘Well along the path to becoming one of the towering Wotans of our time,’ stated Gramophone Magazine.

The roles of the principal lovers are taken by two rising stars who are both making company debuts. Praised for her crystalline voice by Opera Magazine and for her ‘vigour, elegance and passion’ by The Times, Scottish soprano Eleanor Dennis sings the role of Eva. Performing the role of her lover Walther is Charne Rochford, who has already sung some of the most demanding Heldentenor roles in the repertoire for companies such as Volksoper Zürich, the Royal Opera, and English Touring Opera. ‘Rochford has a wonderful voice, full of passion and verve’ (LeftLion).

Baritone William Dazeley sings the role of the pompous antagonist Beckmesser. He scored an enormous hit in the role of Faninal in SOG’s Rosenkavalier, and frequently performs with all of the UK’s opera companies, as well as with major international houses. ‘One of our best baritones,’ said Gramophone Magazine. Eva’s father Pogner is sung by the acclaimed Wagnerian bass Julian Close. A favourite with Saffron Opera audiences, Close has performed the roles of Fasolt, Hunding and Hagen for Saffron Opera, and has received brilliant notices for his performances at Washington National Opera and many European houses.

Taking the roles of the secondary lovers Magdalena and David are mezzo Georgia Mae Bishop and tenor Alex Aldren. Bishop was a delightful Annina in SOG’s Der Rosenkavalier, and Aldren, who originally trained as a doctor makes his company debut. With the outbreak of Covid in March 2020, Alex’s opera and concert work was cancelled, and he went back to work as a doctor in various Accident & Emergency departments around London. While working a shift, he sang ‘Nessun Dorma’ from Puccini’s Turandot for some colleagues, who caught it on camera and posted it on Twitter where it went viral, receiving over 100 thousand views in just a few hours.

The other mastersingers are played by Simon Thorpe, William Stevens, Peter van Hulle, Pauls Putnins, Andrew Mayor, Charles Johnston, Jonathan Finney, Philip Clieve, and Lawrence Thackeray with Simon Grange as the Nightwatchman.  

The orchestra is conducted by SOG’s chief conductor Michael Thorne (‘at one with the spirit… and dramatic architecture of the work’, Seen and Heard), who has successfully led all of SOG’s previous performances, from the inaugural Meistersinger onwards, with verve and passion.

The production will appear in a lively concert staging created by SOG’s casting director and star, inter alia, of the company’s Ring Cycle Elaine McKrill, whose sure-footed comic direction of Le nozze di Figaro created one of the company’s most successful productions to date.

Saffron Opera Group was founded by opera-loving Saffron Walden residents Paul Garland and Francis Lambert in 2013 and is now run by Lambert and Jeff Thomson. The reviews of its performances of the Ring cycle. Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde, Tannhäuser and also the three Mozart Da Ponte operas subsequent to its first production of Die Meistersinger in 2014, are testament to its progressive emergence to become the important and successful opera group it is to-day. ‘Over the past ten years, the Saffron Opera Group has developed considerable form in concert performances’ (Opera Magazine)

Saffron Opera Group performs Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
2.00pm, Sunday 15 September 2024
Saffron Hall, Audley End Road, Saffron Walden CB11 4UH
Box Office: 0845 548 7650

For more about Saffron Opera Group CLICK HERE

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