First Stage Performance of Lord Berners’ Opera at Dorset Opera Festival

United KingdomUnited Kingdom First Stage Performance of Lord Berners’ Opera at Dorset Opera Festival (RJ)


Opera fans can look forward to a unique event in July: the first ever staged performance of Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement composed nearly 90 years ago by the fourteenth Baron Berners (1883-1950). Berners was a painter, author and composer who associated with some of the leading international figures in the arts. His work was admired by Stravinsky and his ballets were choreographed by Balanchine and Ashton.

Sir Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson was a diplomat before succeeding to the title and an extensive estate.. “He kept a house in Rome but increasingly held court at Faringdon House, now in Oxfordshire, as a centre for his legendary surrealist activities such as dyeing the pigeons various colours and building a useless folly on the hill outside Faringdon,” notes his biographer Peter Dickinson. ( Lord Berners: Composer, Writer, Painter, Boydell 2008/10) “Berners may not have been the last eccentric but his music makes him one of the most rewarding,” he adds.

The comic opera Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement is based on a play by Prosper Mérimée whose novel Carmen wasthe inspiration forBizet’s opera of the same name. Nicholas Cleobury and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra have recorded Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement (Marco Polo) which was reviewed by Hubert Culot on Musicweb International in May 2001. “This short opera is a delightful piece ……, even if its aesthetics may seem a bit dated.” he commented. “Berners’ temperament was obviously attuned to its times and his music partakes of the then prevailing mood of light-headedness and nonchalance.”

Berners attitude to life is revealed in the following comment: “There is a good deal to be said for frivolity. Frivolous people, when all is said and done, do less harm in the world than some of our philanthropisers and reformers. Mistrust a man who never has an occasional flash of silliness.”

Opera-goers will be able to make up their own minds about Berners and his only opera at the Coade Theatre, Bryanston, Blandford Forum on July 26th and 28th when Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement is paired with Puccini’s Suor Angelica. Interestingly, the Puccini opera is almost contemporaneous with Berners’ work.

Dorset Opera will also be performing Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Festival on July 25th and 27th at 7 pm and July 28th at 2 pm. Full details of the Festival can be found on or by phoning 01202 499199.

Roger Jones