The third instalment of the Ring Cycle rubs shoulders with works by Bizet, Korngold, Francesca Caccini and Freya Waley-Cohen.
While last year Longborough Festival Opera held three of its four productions in a large and airy ‘Big Top’ in order to fulfil social distancing requirements, this year it is returning to its opera house. Nestled in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside, the 500 seat converted cattle shed could not feel more intimate if it tried and makes for the ideal setting for enjoying, in this instance, works from the 17th to the 21st century.
Longborough is the only summer opera festival in the United Kingdom to put Wagner at the centre of its operations, and it is currently in the middle of a Ring Cycle. It presented Das Rheingold in 2019 and, because of COVID-19, a concert staging of Die Walküre last year. It aims to perform the entire tetralogy in 2024, but this year is the turn of Siegfried (from 30 May), directed like the other three works by Amy Lane. The cast looks excellent with Australian Bradley Daley playing the Heldentenor on his Longborough debut, and all of the other performers being well known to the venue.
Adrian Dwyer sang Florestan here in 2017 and the title role in Grange Park Opera’s The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko in 2021, and it was when he stood out in the small role of Mime in Das Rheingold that we looked forward to his far larger appearance in the third opera. Paul Carey Jones, who sang Wotan here last year (and for the Grimeborn Festival in Das Rheingold in 2019), returns as The Wanderer as does Lee Bisset as Brünnhilde. Mark Stone, Simon Wilding and Mae Heydorn will take on Alberich, Fafner and Erda, having all played the same parts in Das Rheingold, while Julieth Lozano, who shone in the title role of The Cunning Little Vixen here in 2021, sings The Woodbird. Siegfried will be led by the outstanding Wagner conductor Anthony Negus, who wielded the baton for a performance of Die Walküre for English National Opera last December, except on 3 June when Harry Sever, recently appointed Longborough’s first Ring Cycle Conducting Fellow, takes the honours.
“…the 500 seat converted cattle shed could not feel more intimate if it tried…”
From 21 June there will be four semi-staged performances of Korngold’s Die tote Stadt. Peter Auty plays Paul and Rachel Nicholls sings Marie and Marietta, while the cast also includes Madeleine Shaw, who excelled as Fricka here last year, as Brigitta and Lucienne. It will be directed by Carmen Jakobi, responsible for Tristan und Isolde here in 2015 and 2017, conducted by Justin Brown, who led The Cunning Little Vixen, and designed by Nate Gibson, who has worked on L’incoronazione di Poppea and Anna Bolena at the venue. Die tote Stadt will also feature the Longborough Youth Chorus following their successful debut in last year’s The Cunning Little Vixen.
Carmen, one of the most popular operas in the repertoire, commences on 9 July. Vienna State Opera Award-winning mezzo-soprano Margaret Plummer makes her Longborough debut in the title role, while Peter Gijsbertsen (who was Alfredo here in La traviata in 2018) plays Don José, Matthew Durkan (Masetto in Don Giovanni in 2019) sings Escamillo and Jennifer Witton takes on Micaëla. Mathilda Lopez, responsible for La Calisto in 2019, directs, while Director of the Opera School at the University of Cape Town Jeremy Silver conducts, having led L’incoronazione di Poppea in 2018 and Anna Bolena in 2019. This production also features the Longborough Youth Chorus.
The Emerging Artist programme is a Longborough initiative to help up-and-coming singers and players. This year it is represented in a double bill exploring love, freedom and magic comprising Freya Waley-Cohen’s Spell Book and Francesca Caccini’s La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina of 1625 (from 28 July). The latter is the first opera to be written by a woman, and was long considered to be the first Italian opera to be performed outside Italy. Whether it actually was or not, there is only one opera written before that date, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo of 1607, that is still regularly performed today. It will be presented here in a new arrangement by conductor Yshani Perinpanayagam, with Lauren Joyanne Morris singing Alcina, Simone Ibbett-Brown playing Melissa and Oskar McCarthy assuming the role of Ruggiero.
Lasting around twenty five minutes, Waley-Cohen’s contemporary dramatic song cycle Spell Book is inspired by the composer’s encounter with Rebecca Tamás’ collection of poems, WITCH, and will be seen at Longborough in its first ever complete staging. Jenny Ogilvie, who was the choreographer for 2018’s La traviata, directs both works. With the exception of Carmen, which will be sung in English, all of the operas will be performed in their original language, while each of the four productions will feature English surtitles.
Longborough Festival Opera’s 2022 season runs from 30 May to 2 August. For further details and to book tickets visit the Longborough Festival Opera website.