Continuing our series on how summer opera festivals are adjusting to Covid-19, Sam Smith looks at two events coming up at Holland Park in early August.
Opera Holland Park is the only summer opera venue in the heart of London and, while Covid-19 meant it could not present its 2020 programme as originally planned, it is a company that is impossible to keep down. On 23 May it held a Virtual Open Day with interactive online workshops, music and activities for all of the family, and on 25 July it presented its first concert since lockdown began. In February, before all future plans became disrupted, OHP’s education and outreach Inspire team set sail from London to Cornwall, taking John Savournin’s OHP commissioned intergenerational production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance to schools and care homes. The operetta was also originally going to comprise part of OHP’s main 2020 season, but in the event the company did manage to present a reduced and relaxed performance at Holland Park on 2 August. Revived by Rosie Purdie, with Stuart Wild as musical director, the ‘homecoming’ cast included Maciek O’Shea, Daisy Brown, Peter Martin, Alistair Sutherland, Lotte Betts-Dean, Matthew Kellett, Henry Grant Kerswell, Hannah Boxall and Sophie Dicks.
Two concerts are still to come, with this Friday presenting an evening of light music and operetta, and Saturday a series of operatic arias. Heart’s Delight on Friday, 7 August at 18.00 will see John Andrews, last seen at OHP conducting Wolf-Ferrari’s Il segreto di Susanna, lead a journey he devised himself through some of the most delicious comic operas from the Viennese, Parisian and London stages. We have been promised that ‘Birdcatchers, gendarmes, lovers and policemen’ will ‘dance in and out of music by Mozart, Offenbach, Sullivan, Strauss and Lehár’! Featuring Yvonne Howard, John Savournin, Fflur Wyn, Robert Murray and Alison Langer, with an ensemble of strings and woodwind drawn from the City of London Sinfonia, the programme should prove the perfect apéritif for a summer’s evening in the park.
“Opera Holland Park is… a company that is impossible to keep down”
On Saturday, 8 August at 18.00 In Concert: The Encore will follow on from the company’s homecoming concert on 25 July, and mark what would have been the closing night of OHP’s originally planned 2020 summer season. Singers tackling some of the greatest operatic arias ever written include Natalya Romaniw, Jennifer France, Alison Langer, Nardus Williams, Ross Ramgobin, Anush Hovhannisyan, Aigul Akhmetshina, Samuel Sakker, Anna Patalong, Emma Stannard and Grant Doyle, while former ENO Mackerras Fellow Matthew Kofi Waldren, who has had many previous triumphs at Holland Park, conducts. The performances will take place in the open air in the space where the theatre normally stands, and will go ahead whatever the weather. They will adhere to all of the latest guidance from Public Health England, and, in accordance with the current social distancing guidelines, the seating capacity will be limited to 200.
Opera Holland Park is also looking to the future and has already advertised its 2021 Season. This will open on 1 June and include new productions of Le nozze di Figaro, The Cunning Little Vixen and Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, as well as a revival of its 2018 hit La traviata. It is working towards bringing the four productions that were cancelled this year to the stage as soon as possible, while the overall achievements of the company are revealed by the fact that its 2019 double bill comprising Il segreto di Susanna and Iolanta was nominated for the 2020 International Opera Awards. Having given the evening five stars last year, musicOMH is inclined to think the nomination is thoroughly deserved.
For full details and tickets for the performances on 7 and 8 August visit the Opera Holland Park website.