Wednesday 6 January 2010

ETO plans for autumn

English Touring Opera will be hitting the road again in March with Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, Donizetti's Don Pasquale and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, visiting 16 different venues around the country.

But more interesting are their plans for Autumn 2010, because they will be premiering a new opera by Alexander Goehr, based on King Lear. Goehr remains an under-valued figure when it comes to opera in the UK. Covent Garden performed his re-working of Arianna in 1995, but despite being fascinating, well-made and utterly approachable, the work has never been revived by them. (Though a subsequent Cambridge production has led to a recording on NMC). I'm not sure whether his epic opera based on the Anabaptist uprising in Munster, Behold the Sun, has ever been performed; and I seem to remember that there were issues with the musical text that the Deutsche Oper chose to perform, so that I don't think it was premiered in the composer's preferred version.

So it is with great interest that ETO will not only be premiering Promised End but will be touring it round the UK. The opera will have a libretto based on King Lear by Frank Kermode. The ETO press release describes the librettists as William Shakespeare edited by Sir Frank Kermode so, unlike Thomas Ades and The Tempest, it looks as if Goehr will be setting Shakespeare's words.

Of course, such a heavy-weight piece requires a strong cast and Roderick Earl will be playing Lear, Nigel Robson is Gloucester and Lina Markeby plays both Cordelia and the Fool, The Conductor is Ryan Wigglesworth and the director is James Conway.

With such a meaty piece to prepare and tour, the question of course is what to put with it. Here, ETO have hit on the theme of Drama and are presenting Sheridan's The Duenna in the original musical version with music by Thomas Linley (both Junior and Senior) which hasn't been revived for over 100 years. We are all familiar (in theory even if not in fact) with Prokofiev and Roberto Gerhard's version of this story, so it will be illuminating to hear the Georgian original. Richard Suart will be playing Don Jerome.

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