United Kingdom Le Nozze di Figaro will be presented in July (RJ)
One of my August fixtures used to be a trip to Stowe, near to Buckingham, with its magnificent Georgian landscape gardens laid out by Capability Brown. However, it was not the scenic delights that drew me there but rather a summons from a friend of mine, now deceased, to picnic in the grounds and attend an opera performance in the hall of Stowe School.
The picnics were elaborate affairs with a dozen people in attendance and not a sandwich in sight. We lived the high life! The operas were pretty impressive, too, and several won critical acclaim. Over the years Stowe Opera’s founder and music director, Robert Secret, treated us to a heady mix of operas, including Les Contes d’Hoffmann, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Hansel and Gretel and Rusalka.
I hadn’t heard a whisper from Stowe Opera for several years and wondered how it was faring. It seems that it wasn’t; building work at Stowe School put paid to any opera performances. But I am now delighted to report that Stowe Opera is back in business and will be performing Le Nozze di Figaro (the Marriage of Figaro) in July.
Not amidst the glories of the Stowe Landscape Gardens, however. Instead it has moved down the road to Winslow Hall, at the invitation of the Hall’s new owner, former restauranteur Christopher Gilmour. Marcus Binney has described Winslow Hall in The Times as “the finest surviving house built by England’s greatest architect, Sir Christopher Wren, a trophy almost without rival” so opera-goers clearly have a treat in store.
Robert Service returns to the conductor’s seat and Le Nozze will be directed by Yvonne Fontane who also takes the role of the Contessa. Yvonne has sung a range of roles, including Cherubino at Opera Holland Park, Carmen in Raymond Gubbay’s Royal Albert Hall production and Dorabella for Stowe Opera. Her work as a singer has been widely acclaimed. The cast will also include Marc Callahan as Figaro and Catrin Johnsson as Cherubino.
Performances will take place on July 21, 22, 25, 26, 28 and 29 starting at 6pm (3pm on Sundays) with a picnic interval between the acts. Details on www.stoweopera.com.