Tuesday 1 March 2016

The exotic east and a mania for gambling at Opera Holland Park in 2016

Iris image - Lisa Holden
Iris image - Lisa Holden
Opera Holland Park's 2016 season, their first year independent of Kensington and Chelsea council, is canny mix of the familiar and less familiar with some very strong casting. Top of the list must be the new production of Mascagni's Japanese-themed Iris which premiered in 1898 (eight year's after Cavalleria Rusticana and six year's before Puccini's Madama Butterfly), but also of great interest is Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades which remains somewhat undervalued. The more familiar operas this year are Puccini's La Boheme, Rossini's La Cenerentola and Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus. There are 35 main stage performances in all, with the Royal Ballet School's End of Year Show, and Will Todd's popular family opera Alice's Adventures in Wonderland returns to the Yucca Lawn for its fourth outing. One of Opera Holland Park's admirable qualities is that not only do they have the Christine Collins Young Artists Scheme but previous members of the scheme regularly return in other roles and this year is no different.

Mascagni's dramatic three act opera Iris was first performed by Opera Holland Park (OHP) in 1997 and revived in 1998. This new production is directed by Olivia Fuchs (who directed Opera Holland Park's 2014 production of Bellini's Norma), and conducted by Stuart Stratford (the new musical director of Scottish Opera) with popular OHP regular Anne Sophie Duprels as Iris and up-and-coming American tenor Noah Stewart as Osaka, plus James Cleverton and Mikhail Svetlov.

Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades has Peter Wedd in the challenging role of Hermann (Wedd sang the title role in Lohengrin for Welsh National Opera in 2014, and sang the title role in Tristan und Isolde at Longborough in 2015) with Natalya Romaniw as Lisa (Romaniw wowed audiences in last year's OHP production of Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre re) with Rosalind Plowright as the Countess and Grant Doyle as Yeletzky. The production is directed by Rodula Gaitanou (a former Jette Parker Young Artist at Covent Garden whose productions have included The Bartered Bride for British Youth Opera) and conducted by Peter Robinson.

Puccini's La Boheme is directed by Stephen Barlow and conducted by Matthew Waldren, with a young cast including soprano Anna Patalong (who sang Lauretta and Suor Angelica in OHP's 2015 production of Puccini's Il Trittico) and New Zealand-born tenor Shaun Dixon as the young lovers, plus Elin Pritchard, Frederick Long, John Savournin and John Lofthouse, and at the performance on June 24 leading roles will be taken by members of the Christine Collins Young Artists Scheme.

Rossini's La Cenerentola features Victoria Simmonds in the title role, in a production directed by Oliver Platt and conducted by Dane Lam (both of whom have featured on OHP's Christine Collins Young Artists Scheme in previous years), with Nico Darmanin, Nicholas Lester and Jonathan Veira.

Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus features the young husband and wife team of Ben Johnson and Susanna Hurrell as the Eisensteins, plus Jennifer France as Adele, Peter Davoren as Alfred and Samantha Price as Orlofsky, Martin Lloyd-Evans directs and John Rigby conducts.

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