English Touring Opera return to one of their favourite composers and a feast of early works with Handel's Radamisto; a triple bill of Purcell, Carissimi, and Gesualdo; and Bach's St Matthew Passion.
As the Baroque golds and burnt umbers of autumn appear, English Touring Opera frequently turn to Handel. This year their autumn season features Radamisto, the tale of a royal family locked in mortal conflict. It was Handel’s first opera for the new organisation formed in 1719 to mount Italian opera in London and was a huge success. The aria “Ombra cara”, astonished audiences and was sung in drawing rooms for decades thereafter. In revised versions at the end of 1720 Handel rewrote the title role for the famous castrato Senesino. The story champions faithfulness and married love, but it also has a fine gallery of moral depravity and intolerance.
The second production moves to the 17th century and is a ‘concoction’ – a triple bill which promises to conjure a Jacobean night-world featuring Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Dido is abandoned by her lover Aeneas as he leaves to fulfil his destiny in Italy and her lament, as she contemplates her ruin, is one of opera’s most famous arias. Dido will be complemented by Giacomo Carissimi’s Jonas, which tells the story of Jonah and the whale, one of a series of short musical dramas depicting scenes from the Bible in which humans wrestle with God. The third element is I Will not Speak, a selection of Carlo Gesualdo’s intense madrigals. The prince-composer, who murdered his wife and her lover, was tortured by his mortal love affairs and by his intense love for an absent God.
The season also includes concerts of Bach’s St Matthew Passion, concluding a 3-year cycle of his major works. ETO soloists and the Old Street Band led by Jonathan Peter Kenny will work in partnership with 23 different choirs around the country.
The English Touring Opera autumn season opens on Saturday, October 6 at the Hackney Empire with Handel’s Radamisto and continues in the same venue on October 12 with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Carissimi’s Jonas and I will Not Speak, a selection of madrigals by Carlo Gesulado. The concerts of Bach’s St Matthew Passion begin on October 18 in the Temple Church, London.