Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview – Longborough Festival Opera’s 2024 season includes a complete Ring Cycle

Wagner takes centre stage at this coming year’s festival.

Longborough Festival Opera

Longborough Festival Opera (Photo: LFO)

Any season at any opera festival is special, but the summer of 2024 at Longborough looks set to be especially so as it is presenting all four operas in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. It is not the first time the venue has done so, but the road to this point has been bumpier than anyone could ever have anticipated. When the first opera Das Rheingold was staged in 2019, the plan was simply to present one per year and then the entire tetralogy in 2023. Then the pandemic disrupted everything, and created particular problems for this project as it was impossible simply to skip a year and move on to what was already planned for the one that followed.

In spite of the difficulties, Longborough persevered and presented a concert staging of Die Walküre with reduced orchestration in 2021, and full productions of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung in the years that followed. The consequence is that much of this upcoming Ring Cycle has been proven in advance, since the stagings of three of the operas have already been seen. Conversely, the fact that a full production of Die Walküre will be presented for the first time means there is still something new to look forward to, and there is every reason to believe it will be as strong as the others it joins as the main production team remains as it has been for the entire Ring Cycle, comprising director Amy Lane, designer Rhiannon Newman Brown, lighting designer Charlie Morgan Jones, video designer Tim Baxter and costume designer Emma Ryott. As before the Cycle will be conducted by Anthony Negus, who is Longborough’s Music Director and an outstanding Wagner interpreter.

The cast is also very similar to when each of the operas was performed individually, and, if anything, the act of presenting them altogether has aided consistency across the four. First time around the extraordinary Paul Carey Jones played Wotan in Die Walküre and Siegfried, but this time he sings the part in Das Rheingold as well. Similarly, the outstanding Mark Stone performs Alberich in all three operas in which the character appears, whereas before he missed Götterdämmerung. Lee Bisset and Bradley Daley reprise their roles of Brünnhilde and Siegfried respectively while other returning cast members include Madeleine Shaw (Fricka), Pauls Putnins (Fasolt), Simon Wilding (Fafner), Mae Heydorn (Erda and First Norn), Adrian Dwyer (Mime), Mari Wyn Williams (Woglinde), Rebecca Afonwy-Jones (Wellgunde), Katie Stevenson (Flosshilde), Wyn Pencarreg (Donner), Laure Meloy (Gutrune), Catherine Carby (Waltraute), Harriet Williams (Second Norn) and Katie Lowe (Third Norn).  

“Any season at any opera festival is special, but the summer of 2024 at Longborough looks set to be especially so…”

Mark Le Brocq who played Loge before now takes on Siegmund as well, while Julian Close who was Hagen last summer will sing Hunding in addition to that role. Given just how well both performed before, the opportunity to hear more of them is a most welcome one. Charne Rochford sings Froh for the first time at the venue, but the most high profile new addition to the cast is Emma Bell who makes her Longborough debut as Sieglinde, having previously sung the same role for English National Opera and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser at the Royal Opera House.

The three full Cycles will run from 16 to 22 June, 25 to 30 June and 4 to 9 July 2024. Tickets for these are now on sale to the public, though they are likely to be hard to come by. In anticipation of this, Longborough will be introducing two further performances of Die Walküre on 12 and 14 July, the former of which will be conducted by Longborough’s Ring Cycle Conducting Fellow Harry Sever and the latter by Negus. Tickets for these will go on sale in early 2024, when it will also be possible to buy tickets for individual Ring productions if any are available. These additional performances mean that anyone who saw the operas first time around, and consequently only experienced Die Walküre in concert, now has the chance to ‘complete the set’ of fully staged productions.   

While Wagner is undoubtedly the focus of the 2024 season, Longborough will also be providing some variety by performing La bohème from 27 July to 6 August. It will be directed by movement specialist Sarah Fahie and conducted by Alice Farnham, who led an outstanding account of L’elisir d’amore here in 2023, with Jung Soo Yun playing Rodolfo, Elin Pritchard singing Mimì and Darwin Prakash assuming the role of Marcello. Presenting La bohème in 2024 also ensures that Longborough continues to do full justice to its Emerging Artist Programme, an initiative to help up-and-coming singers and players, as the production will include the Emerging Artists Sofia Kirwan-Baez (Musetta), Edward Jowle (Schaunard), Duncan Stenhouse (Colline) and Matthew Siveter (Benoît and Alcindoro). Tickets for this will also go on sale in early 2024, and will ensure that even those unable to get to the Ring Cycle can enjoy an outing to this most beautiful of summer opera settings in the Cotswolds.    

• Longborough Festival Opera’s 2024 season runs from 16 June to 6 August. For further details and tickets visit the LFO website.

Longborough Festival Opera: the first 30 years by Richard Bratby was published in November 2023 and is available to purchase online. 

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Preview – Longborough Festival Opera’s 2024 season includes a complete Ring Cycle