Sunday, 26 July 2009

Barely a moment to recover from Le pescatrici before we were into rehearsals with the Bampton Classical Players for our Wigmore Hall debut on Friday. Serena Kay and Lina Markeby cast off their alter egos as Nerina and Eurilda and became Tangia and Lisinga in Gluck's Le cinesi, joined by Tom Raskin and Martene Grimson as Silango and Sivene. Given the tiny stage at the Wigmore we were unable to stage this delightful ironic comedy, but nevertheless its humour and vitality came across superbly in Murray Hipkin's translation, and the gestures and poses of the singers made this a model of operatic communication. I doubt that the Wigmore Hall has often echoed to so many laughs and chuckles. Preceding Le cinesi was what we believe was the UK première of Gluck's La danza, a mellifluous cantata-like opera, sung with immense beauty by Martene and Nicholas Sharratt. The Classical Players were on superb form under the inspired direction of Christian Curnyn, and the evening was a very special one for Bampton Classical Opera. It is a privilege to 'discover' music of this quality, and we hope to present further Gluck operas in the future.

The following day several of the players, with Steve Cutting (natural trumpet) re-convened in Warwickshire, along with Tom Raskin, Vojtech Safarik (Lindoro in Pescatrici) and Joana Seara for a concert of Handel and Bach to celebrate the 70th birthday of one of our most longstanding supporters and Patrons, Lady Goodhart. With a guest list of over 250, this was a sumptuous lunch and afternoon concert party in a vast marquee in the grounds of Compton Verney, the superb country-house art gallery in south Warwickshire. We were delighted to honour Celia Goodhart in this way, whose hospitality and generosity is legendary.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

And so to two very successful performances, despite the unfortunate weather which certainly didn't provide the requisite balmy mediterranean sunshine required by the production and the set. Ah, the joys of open-air performances in England! Nevertheless the audiences were enraptured, and many have deemed it the 'best ever Bampton opera yet'. The performances had great energy, musicianship and fantastic comic timing, and once again we feel that we have successfully breathed new life into a forgotten opera of quality and merit.

Monday, 20 July 2009

With our opening performances this weekend we've been too busy to attend to the blog, but now we're in the process of washing costumes and crating up props, ready for our next performances of Pescatrici (30 August: Westonbirt, Glos/ 17 September: St John's Smith Square London).  Unfortunately we were unlucky with the weather which has been so changeable this week - consequently our dress rehearsal on Thursday evening could not take place on our open-air stage, and so had to be (without set) in St Mary's Church adjacent to the Deanery Garden.  Nevertheless we maintained cheerful spirits and it proved an outstandingly productive rehearsal - as director, I felt that it really leapt off the page with every singer making their role and character entirely their own.  The pacing and comedy were excellent, and we all felt confident that we had reached a very healthy stage of expertise.  Photographs by Anthony Hall capture something of the immense fun of this production, set in 1950s Taranto.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Inevitably a very busy week. Today, whilst final technical and painting work was taking place on stage, we had a morning "recit call" for singers with our superb repetiteur Kelvin Lim, the Sitzprobe with orchestra in St Mary's in the afternoon (as in the photograph, with our conductor Alice Farnham), and the Act 2 Stage and Orchestra rehearsal in the (very beautiful) evening in the Deanery Garden. Meanwhile, Gilly has been manning the telephones constantly (we have a challenging Wigmore Hall concert (Gluck: Le cinesi and La danza) and a Bach/Handel concert for our Patron Lady Goodhart's landmark birthday on consecutive days in a week's time) as well as cooking superbly for the cast and players. All in a day's work....

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Final day of London rehearsals today, with a non-stopping run - always a critical moment for the psychology of the production and the team. Fortunately the chest infections which have caused worry over the past few days are in remission, and voices will be in good form for Bampton next weekend. The photos may be a little blurry, but performances weren't: not in full costume, they show Andrew Friedhoff (Burlotto) and Mark Chaundey (Frisellino); and Robert Winslade Anderson (Mastricco) and Lina Markeby (Eurilda).

Saturday, 11 July 2009

We're nearly at the end of our London rehearsals, and move to Bampton for the final days of work on the stage and set. It's been a pretty intense and tiring schedule for us all, especially coming on the back of our Cheltenham production (in which Lina Markeby and Serena Kay were also singing). All seems to be on schedule, however, and we're gathering the final props and costume details. Not surprisingly there need to be quite a few fish, one of which has been caught here by Mike Wareham.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The last week has involved complicated logistics as we have been simultaneously rehearsing Haydn as well as Gluck's Le cinesi and Mozart's Apollo and Hyacinth, reviving our 2008 double-bill production for our debut appearance at the Cheltenham Festival. The charming Pittville Pump Room was the venue, and the extremely efficient management and helpful Festival student volunteers enabled us to get-in our sets and lights and do a 3 hour rehearsal (with the Bampton Classical Players) between the end of the lunchtime recital at 1pm and our performance at 6.30. The photograph of the end of the overture of Le cinesi shows Serena Kay as Tangia (she's also performing Nerina in Le pescatrici), Martene Grimson as Sivene, and Lina Markeby as Lisinga (also Eurilda in Pescatrici). Anthony Hall, also hard at work as co-builder of the Haydn set, has become the company's photographer and captured this somnolent moment during last night's performance, under the atmospheric lighting of Ian Chandler.