Friday 28 January 2022

The return of our favourite theatre: Opera Holland Park announces its 2022 season

We spent a lot of time at Opera Holland Park last Summer, partly because of the programme but also because of the intelligently creative approach that the theatre took to distancing restrictions and such, so that the resulting theatre was pleasant to visit with a new thrust stage that brought the action forward. Opera Holland Park has just announced its plans for 2022, and it sounds as if this year is going to be equally rewarding. There are five main stage productions of six operas, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Bizet's Carmen, Mark Adamo's Little Women, Delius' Margot le Rouge, Puccini's Le Villi, and Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore.

The theatre's capacity will remain at around 700, with some changes but the same footprint and aesthetic as last year. And not only is it constructed from reclaimed and sustainable materials, but food and drink is predominantly sourced from independent companies within a 50 mile radius of Holland Park for purchase by patrons.

The Opera Holland Park Young Artists scheme continues apace, and this year's productions feature 13 alumni returning as principal artists including Lada Valešová, conducts Eugene Onegin, Cecilia Stinton who directs Carmen, and singers Charlotte Badham, Jack Holton, Alison Langer, Thomas Mole and Emma Stannard. The festival opens with Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, and this production forms the basis for the Young Artists performances this year with conductor Hannah von Wiehler, director Emma Black, répétiteur Alina Sorokina, and singers Lucy Anderson, Rory Musgrave and Jack Roberts. In addition, associate conductor Sonia Ben-Santamaria is at the helm for two performances of Carmen, whilst associate conductor (and chorus master) conducts two performances of Little Women

Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin is conducted by Lada Valešová [who conducted last year's Young Artists performance of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, see my review], directed by Julia Burbach [who directed last year's L'Amico Fritz, see my review, and I chatted to Julia last year in advance of her production of Wagner's The Valkyrie at Grimeborn, see my interview], with Anush Hovhannisyan, Samuel Dale Johnson, Thomas Atkins plus Amanda Roocroft making her role debut as Larina.

Bizet's Carmen will be directed by Cecilia Stinton with Kezia Bienek [who was delightful as Beppe in Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz, last year] in the title role plus Oliver Johnston, Alison Langer [who has been singing the role of Micaela with Opera North] and Thomas Mole. The team is also joined by Spanish choreographer Isabel Baquero so the production promises to an intriguing take on this popular but rather problematic work. In the pit, conductor Lee Reynolds makes his company debut.

Composer Mark Adamo's opera Little Women debuted in 1998 and has proved highly popular in America. Rather remarkably, Opera Holland Park's performance will be the work's UK premiere. Ella Marchment [who directed my opera The Genesis of Frankenstein with Helios Opera in 2016, see the video] makes her company debut with a cast including an array of strong women, Charlotte Badham, Kitty Whately, Harriet Eyley, Elizabeth Karani and Lucy Schaufer, plus Harry Thatcher and Benson Wilson.

The double bill of two Verismo shockers will intrigue, pairing Delius' rarely performed Margot le Rouge with Puccini's Le Villi. Martin Lloyd Evans directs and Francesco Cillufo directs with strong casts including Anne Sophie Duprels (as both heroines), Samuel Sakker, Peter Auty, Stephen Gadd, Paul Carey Jones, plus Laura Woods, George von Bergen and Laura Lolita Perešivana.

The final production is another co-production with Charles Court Opera. Having starred in English National Opera's recent production of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, John Savournin returns to the role of Captain Corcoran but this time he directs too! With a cast including Richard Burkhard and Peter Kirk.

A lovely feature of last year was the mix of concerts as well as staged productions. Julien van Mellaerts and Dylan Perez' Opera in Song series returns with six opera-inspired recitals including portrait of Carmen in song, a celebration of female composers and librettists, a survey of classic and classical American songs, and three programmes of Schubert song cycles given fresh contexts in poetry and music. Artists include Louise Alder, James Baillieu, Adèle Charvet, Francesca Chiejina, Kunal Lahiry, Simon Lepper, Gary Matthewman, Ema Nikolovska, Ella O’Neill, Alex Otterburn and Roderick Williams.

There are visiting companies too. British Youth Opera makes a return following its Holland Park debut last year, and the Royal Ballet School are back for their first performances here since 2019. There will also be spoken word events, the return of Notting Hill Carnival, Waterperry Opera’s family-friendly reduction of Peter and the Wolf, Fifth Door Ensemble’s presentation of The Seven Deadly Sins and Bluebeard’s Castle, and the Holland Park debut of the period instruments ensemble, Figure, in a performance of Handel’s opera, Serse.

Despite a reduction in capacity (down 30% on pre-2020 levels), the company will maintain its annual percentage of accessible and free tickets, including Free Tickets for Under 18s and Over 65s, and reduced tickets for NHS staff. To bring opera to a wider audience, there are Discovery Matinees, two Schools Matinees (including a full performance of Eugene Onegin), online and in person sessions for children under the age of five or those with special educational needs, a collaboration with the Holland Park Ecology Centre inspired by the legend of Le Villi and featuring an exploration of the woodland around the theatre, a project inspired by Eugene Onegin designed for those living with dementia, and a new Youth Choir.

Full details from the Opera Holland Park website.

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