With a masked ball, the can-can, a spot of Handelian bedroom farce and Violetta hosting a soirée, this year's Iford Arts season has a particularly festive air
On a Sunday evening in May, La Traviata’s Violetta threw a party in Bath’s Banqueting Hall. An evening of opera arias and surprises and part of the Bath International Music Festival it was also a prologue to the three-month Iford Arts Music Festival which opens on June 6. This year’s first opera is Verdi’s Un Ballo In Maschera. The masked ball of the title is the climax of a tale about a fatal love triangle. Set in an intense world of power politics it is based on a piece of real history and despite impending tragedy is pervaded by a mysterious aura of gaiety. The production is directed by Tim Nelson and Iford’s music director Oliver Gooch will be directing the CHROMA Ensemble.
Orpheus in the Underworld contains dances (waltzes, galops and the famous can-can) and a rowdy party. Offenbach’s most celebrated work, it uses classical Greek myth as the basis for a satire on nineteenth century Parisian Bourgeois society. Some critics were outraged at its premier in 1858 but it quickly became immensely popular. Opera Della Luna’s production with a new translation by Artistic Director Jeff Clarke and a company of multi-talented singers, comedians and dancers will cast a satirical eye on our own society. The conductor is Toby Purser.
Another satirical comedy, this time by Handel, completes the trio of operas. Agrippina, the mother of Nero, is plotting the downfall of her husband the Roman Emperor Claudius and the installation of her son as his successor. Handel deftly ridicules the vanities and greed of those who lust for dominance and revels in the power struggle between husband and wife and the machinations between Agrippina and her rival, the delicious sex kitten, Poppea. The opera descends into something approaching bedroom farce in the climactic scene when Poppea conceals three would-be lovers separately around her bedroom. Directed by Bruno Ravella it will be conducted by Christopher Bucknall.
The Iford Arts Music Festival, which also includes jazz and classical concerts, opens on June 6 with in-house productions of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera and Handel’s Agrippina on July 25. Opera della Luna’s production of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld opens on June 27.