Monday 5 February 2024

Low comedy & sophisticated satire: New Sussex Opera revives John Frederick Lampe's The Dragon of Wantley

John Frederick Lampe's The Dragon of Wantley - New Sussex Opera
We often forget that 18th century audiences enjoyed a good laugh as much as their modern day counterparts, live wasn't just opera seria and uplifting oratorio. One of the comic masterpieces of the period, John Frederick Lampe's delightfully satirical opera, The Dragon of Wantley, has remained puzzlingly neglected, with performances only happening once in a while. 

Perhaps the fact that there is no definitive score does not help. Written in the 1730s by a musician who played the bassoon in Handel's orchestra, it proved popular and almost certainly performers of the time took a creative view of it. This is reflected in the two surviving scores, one without recitatives and the other heavily cut (presumably a shorter touring version). However, in 2022, Resonus Classics issued a terrific new recording of the opera [see my review].

The good news is that New Sussex Opera is presenting a new production of The Dragon of Wantley which is touring to Lewes, Hove, Tunbridge Wells, Winchester, Blackheath Halls (London) and Eastbourne from 14 April to 12 May 2024. Toby Purser conducts the Bellot Baroque Ensemble. Paul Higgins' production sets the opera in a South Yorkshire of the 1980's (against the background of the miners’ strike), and singers include Ana Beard Fernández, Magnus Walker,  Charlotte Badham, and Robert Gildon.

Full details from New Sussex Opera's website.

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