Tuesday 25 May 2021

Exploring the operas of Gustav Holst at the Leeds Opera Festival

Leeds Opera Festival
Like the operas of his friend and colleague, Ralph Vaughan Williams, the operas of Gustav Holst remain on the fringes of the repertoire at best. Whilst Holst's one-act opera Savitri might occasionally pop up (partly due to its sheer practicality), his other operas remain real rarities. I have seen Savtri (memorably with Janet Baker and John Shirley Quirk at Scottish Opera), however his other works including At The Boar's Head, The Perfect Fool and The Wandering Scholar, have so far eluded me. However, that is about to change because the 2021 Leeds Opera Festival, presented by the Northern Opera Group, is bringing Holst's operas to the fore.

Running from 23 to 30 August 2021, the festival is presenting a double bill of Holst's Savitri and At the Boar's Head, the first based on a tale from a Sanskrit epic the second based on Shakespeare. Savitri will feature Meeta Raval in the title role and both productions will be directed by Emma Black and conducted by Lewis Gaston. The chorus in Savitri will be the festival's emerging artist chorus, which will be giving a lunchtime concert too.

Holst's The Wandering Scholar, based on Helen Waddell's book The Wandering Scholars, was his final opera and there are indications that he intended to revise it but he was too ill and never saw the work performed. The festival will be presenting a touring production which will visit eight community venues in Leeds and West Yorkshire, with a production directed by Jim Osman and conducted by David Ward.

Holst had a great interest in Sanskrit and early Indian culture. He did his own English versions of poems from the Rig Veda which he set for women's chorus, and the libretto of Savitri was created by Holst from the episode of Savitri and Satyavan from the Mahābhārata. So it is apposite that the festival is highlighting the cross cultural links of Savitri, by commissioning (with South Asian Arts UK) a new work from composer Sarah Sayeed and poet Jaspreet Kaur (better known as Behind the Netra), both of South Asian heritage, which responds to Savitri. There will also be an exhibition exploring Leeds' operatic history, all 300 years of it, plus talks, discussions and family events.

Full details from the Leeds Opera Festival website.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month