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Gloucestershire GL56 0QF  
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TransformationsJun 2018
Change is at the heart of Longborough Festival Opera's 2018 season with Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer, Verdi's La traviata, Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos and Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea

Loosely connecting the four operas in Longborough Opera’s 2018 season is the the bitter-sweet nature of love and its transformative power.  In Der fliegende Holländer, the captain of a ghostly ship doomed to sail the sea forever is redeemed by the love of a faithful woman.  Inspired by the legend of the Flying Dutchman and the composer’s experiences of a frightening sea crossing (he was escaping from creditors), it was Wagner’s first step from opera to music drama.

La traviata, Verdi’s most frequently performed work, is the story of a pair of star-crossed lovers, a famous courtesan and a young man of respectable family.  The hero’s father attempts to separate them using a cynical ploy which assumes the worst of a woman who sells herself for gain.  But love transforms her into a self-sacrificing heroine worthy of his respect.

Richard Strauss makes his Longborough debut with Ariadne auf Naxos.  It intriguingly combines a serious opera in the classical style in which the deserted Ariadne observes how an old love must always give way to the new with Commedia dell'arte.  A prologue explains how the unusual form of the work came about: a rich host’s absurd requirement that two separate entertainments be performed for him simultaneously to save time.  The performers, tragic and comic alike, must tailor their efforts to their employer's requirements and in the process create something completely new.

The domestic situations of the protagonists in Monteverdi’s L'incoronazione di Poppea are certainly transformed as Poppea, mistress of the Emperor, seeks the crown and the banishment of his wife – but whether for the better is anyone’s guess in a society where, as the God of Love (or lust) boasts, he rules.  Monteverdi’s last opera, considered his finest achievement, provides the platform for the Longborough’s Young Artists, the company’s annual programme to provide world-class performance opportunities to singers and players at the beginning of their careers.

The Longborough Festival opens on June 6 with Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer and continues on June 23 with Verdi’s La traviata and on July 13 with Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss.  The season ends with Monteverdi’s L'incoronazione di Poppea which opens on July 28 for four performances.  All performances take place in the Opera House, Longborough

Dramatic MissionsJun 2017
The Longborough Festival Opera season features a seminal work by Gluck and operas by Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner – all influenced by his musical reforms

The company's season closes with their annual Young Artists' production, this year Orfeo ed Euridice – Gluck’s first opera to attempt to replace the complex musical conventions and plots of Baroque opera with a greater dramatic drive.  Based on a Greek myth, it is the straightforward story of Orpheus’s attempts to rescue his wife Euridice from death and confinement in Hades.  The influence of Gluck’s operatic objectives and the plot device of a rescue mission is evident in the work of all the composers featured this summer.

In Beethoven’s only opera, Leonore, disguised as Fidelio, a male prison guard, embarks on a valiant attempt to rescue her husband from unjust imprisonment and certain death at the hands of the corrupt prison governor Pizarro.  A deeply moving story of love and faith, Beethoven’s resounding celebration of the enduring quest for justice has resonated with audiences across the centuries, and remains entirely relevant.

In Mozart’s The Magic Flute, it is the high priest Sarastro from whom Prince Tamino has to rescue the Queen of the Night’s daughter Pamina.  His quest turns out to be far more complex than at first apparent and the balance of good and evil not as he imagines.  This fairy-tale style story full of magic and flawed characters portrays the education of mankind from chaos to enlightenment.

A Longborough Festival Opera season would not of course be complete without a Wagner production and it opens with what the composer described as ‘the most audacious and original work of my life’.  A revival of the company's successful 2015 production, it is another groundbreaking and influential work based on legend.  However in the Celtic legend of Tristan und Iseult Tristan is conducting Isolde overseas to a hated marriage rather than rescuing her.  When the bride and her travelling companion fall in love tragedy is inevitable.

The Longborough Festival Opera season opens on June 8 with Wagner's Tristan und Isolde and continues with Beethoven's Fidelio, (June 24), Mozart's The Magic Flute (July 13) and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice (July 29).

Dangerous LiaisonsJun 2016
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.

Back to WagnerJun 2015
Longborough Festival Opera's 2015 season features two towering tragedies: Tristan und Isolde and Rigoletto and lifts the spirits with the more lighthearted Don Pasquale and Xerxes

Longborough stepped into the limelight with its regular Wagner productions and completed its Ring Cycle in 2013.  This year the journey continues.  Wagner interrupted his composition of the Ring at the end of Siegfried to write Tristan und Isolde, the tragic story of lovers who begin as enemies as Tristan, who has killed Isolde‘s lover, conveys her to an unwanted marriage.  A magic potion which they drink in retribution turns out to bring not death but love and thus begins an affair which cannot but end in tragedy.  Anthony Negus conducts, as with all the Longborough Wagner productions; Carmen Jakobi directs.

Don Pasquale, one of Donizetti’s most enduringly popular operas, is a sparkling comedy about an old man determined to marry in order to provide himself with an heir, since his nephew refuses his chosen bride.  Needless to say with the aid of a crafty friend and a monster of a performance by a fictitious wife, all ends the way it should with suitable morals drawn.  Director Alan Privett sets it on a 1930’s Hollywood sound stage, where the principal actors and the studio crew all have their private lives, as well as a job to do.  The conductor is Thomas Blunt.

Verdi’s Rigoletto takes the season back to tragedy, exploring the boundaries of love and innocence, power and corruption.  In a world where the ruthless win and the outsider pays the cost, the hunchback Rigoletto tries to keep his young daughter Gilda out of reach of his womanising boss.  Rising young conductor Gad Kadosh makes his UK debut at Longborough in a new production directed by Caroline Clegg who sets it in America in the 20’s with the Duke as a corrupt millionaire CEO of a burgeoning corporation.  It’s a world of post-war exuberance, decadence and glamour where the old is irreverently ridiculed and replaced.

And finally, Handel’s Xerxes, a witty, elegant and often hilarious commentary on love and power.  The eponymous hero less than heroically pursues his brother’s girlfriend, jilts his fiancée and creates mad schemes to conquer the world.  Everyone revolves around his unpredictable actions, trying to keep their own lives intact.  Conducted by Jeremy Silver it is directed by Jenny Miller.

Longborough Festival Opera’s season opens on June 12 with Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and continues with Donizetti’s Don Pasquale on July 3; Verdi’s Rigoletto on July 4 and Xerxes on July 25.

Quick WorkJun 2014
The Longborough Festival Opera season features works that achieved immediate success in their own times: The Barber of Seville, Rinaldo and Tosca

Some operas take time and revision to become repertoire staples: Carmen was originally thought to be obscure, immoral and too long.  But others become hits immediately and Longborough Festival Opera features three, two of which were also written with extraordinary speed (allegedly)...

Rossini’s Barber of Seville is famous, not only for being perhaps the greatest of all comic operas, but for having been written by a composer at the top of his game (at the age of 24 he had already written some sixteen operas), in fourteen days.  Always a quick worker, his challenge was to prepare something for the upcoming carnival season in Rome which he achieved by reusing, as he often did, material from his other works; this time for the overture.  The first night didn’t go well but after the second the opera was acknowledged a great success and went on to became one of the most popular in the repertoire.  This production of the tale of the barber who helps the young Count Almaviva to win his bride is sung in an acclaimed translation by Richard Studer.

It might seem impossible to compose something as complex as an opera in such a short timescale but another composer who managed it was the 26 year old Handel, who, also reusing previous material, wrote Rinaldo, bold, colourful, full of youthful energy and his first London triumph, in a fortnight - according to his librettist, Rossi.  The story is a fantasy, a baroque Star Wars involving wizardry, volcanoes, mermaids and spectacular theatrical effects, with at its heart the young hero Rinaldo setting out to rescue his princess from evil forces.

Puccini was 42 when he began work on Tosca in 1895, and it didn’t have its premiere until five years later, reflecting his busy work schedule overseeing revivals of his previous works, his desire to undertake detailed research to ensure the right atmosphere and arguments with his publisher.  No ambitious young man’s haste here.  Although the critics were lukewarm, audiences loved this operatic version of Sardou’s original play and the tale of love, revenge and political prisoners has became a repertory standard.

The Longborough Festival Opera season, held at Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire opens on June 24 with Puccini’s Tosca and continues with Rossini’s Barber of Seville on July 2 and Handel’s Rinaldo on July 24.