Longborough Festival Opera's eclectic season featuring the consequences of sinful passions incorporates Wagner, Mozart, Janacek and Handel
Tannhauser is not a man who does things by halves. Too much time with Venus is followed by an excess of shame and regret, itself regretted when he finds the church will not absolve him. Only the love of an altruistic woman can bring about his redemption. The opera, Wagner specialists Longborough Festival Opera suggests, perhaps tells us more about Wagner the man than any of his other operas
The sorceress Alcina in Handel’s opera of the same name has no such tortured hang-ups. She takes her pleasure where she pleases and when tired of her lovers changes them into stones, plants, or anything that takes her fancy. She finally meets her match in Ruggerio who manages to tear himself away from her although it takes the combined efforts of his tutor, his fiancée, a magic ring and some very complicated plot twists to do it.
Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro has no sexual inhibitions either. He thinks the droit de seigneur is a thoroughly civilised custom and the plot turns on everyone else’s attempts to prevent him exercising it with Figaro’s bride. With psychological insight, humour and humanity it is a true opera of the Enlightenment.
Lust, jealousy and pride are all evident in the grim reality of Janacek’s Jenufa. The heroine’s authoritarian stepmother unknowingly prevents a marriage which would have united the parents of an illegitimate child. After the birth she kills the child in order to ensure a respectable marriage. Are reconciliation and redemption remotely possible?
The Longborough Festival Opera season opens with Wagner’s Tannhauser on June 9 and continues with Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro on June 26 and Janacek’s Jenufa on July 16. The final production of the season is Handel’s Alcina which opens on July 30.