Iford Arts' 25th anniversary season takes us on a series of journeys with Bernstein's Candide, Handel's Partenope and Puccini's Madame Butterfly
Hope is at the heart of each of the three operas which make up Iford Arts’ 2018 season in the cloister at Iford. Each operatic journey not only involves a geographical move to exotic locations but reveals inner voyages of self discovery. The innocent hero of Bernstein’s Candide certainly undergoes both in abundance. An idealistic optimist, he is taken on a whirligig world quest, encountering an absurd series of unfortunate events, learning the lessons of life. A Pythonesque sensibility pervades the tale, satirising the foibles and hypocrisies of man and probing the big questions which haunt us all. Given that the overture is one of the most popular in the concert repertory it is a surprise to learn that the opera was not an instant hit. It has been revised several times and this production, which continues Iford Arts collaboration with Opera della Luna, employs the very successful 1999 National Theatre version.
In Handel’s comedy Partenope, a jilted and determined woman pursues her former lover across the sea from Corinth to Naples to wreak vengeance on him for his rejection of her. Dressing as a man, she fetches up at the court of a queen Partenope who has three suitors vying for her hand. A tangle of romantic complications ensues which unwinds itself into a delightfully daft denouement as all the well-observed characters arrive at greater self knowledge and true love finally triumphs.
After two light-hearted operas, the third is a tragedy which takes us to Japan where the heroine of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, the very young Cio-Cio-San, is ironically static, waiting by the sea for her husband, an American naval officer who has returned to his homeland, to come back to her. The opera was a failure at its premiere in Milan and like Candide, underwent significant revision. Within a year the new version proved to be a success and it has become one of the most popular operas in the repertoire and one of Puccini’s most-performed works.
The 2018 Iford Arts opera season opens with Bernstein’s Candide on May 25, continues with Handel’s Partenope which opens on June 23 and concludes with Puccini’s Madame Butterfly which begins on July 21. The season also includes a range of jazz, swing and party music concerts. All opera performances take place in the Cloister at Iford.