Sunday, 4 May 2014

English Touring Opera: Three Operas in English Mozart: "Magic Flute" Tues - Thurs 13 - 15 May Benjamin Britten: "Paul Bunyan" Friday 16 May Michael Tippett: "King Priam" Saturday 17 May 2014 All at Exeter Northcott Theatre, Streatham Campus (Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement 2014)

Michael Rosewell
W A Mozart: "The Magic Flute"
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Thursday 15 May

Musical Director: Michael Rosewell
Artistic Director & CEO: James Conway
Society of London Theatre Olivier Award
Sunday 13 April

(Photograph: Pamela Raith)
In 1979 the Arts Council of Great Britain developed "Opera for All" into the futuristically named "Opera 80". In 1992, the retro-sounding Opera 80 became "English Touring Opera".

In 2002 James Conway, General Director of "Opera Theatre Company" in Dublin, became Artistic Director and Chief Executive. In 2009 he was joined by the former Musical Director of the Vienna State Opera, Michael Rosewell.

Together, James Conway and Michael Rosewell have worked tirelessly for the last five years to continue and develop the creative work of the company.

On 13th April this year, half way through English Touring Opera's current tour, the Society of London Opera announced that their work was to be recognised by the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera.

During their collaboration, James and Michael have encouraged experimentation with new approaches and brought to the stage new and lesser known works.

This year's triumph reflects the bold choice and creative excellence of their two latest productions. This years opera selection includes the classical favourite, Mozart's "Magic Flute", which Michael Rosewell will conduct at Exeter Northcott Theatre this Thursday. In addition Philip Sunderland will conduct Benjamin Britten's "Paul Bunyan" on Friday, and Michael Rosewell will return on Saturday to conduct Sir Michael Tippett's "King Priam".

Mozart wrote "The Magic Flute" in 1790, shortly before he died. Despite his prodigious talent, Mozart in his mid-thirties had been unsuccessful as a commercial composer. He was often dependent on his fellow Freemasons for financial support.

Despite his failing health he composed some of his best work in this year. His professional situation was set to improve. However, having managed to conduct the first performance of two new operas in 1791, "Le Clemenze di Tito" and "The Magic Flute", Mozart was too ill to continue and dies shortly afterwards.

His final opera "The Magic Flute" would probably have done him more harm than good, had he survived. By using the intimate and secret details of Freemasonry to create popular entertainment, he had made himself very unpopular.

The opera opens with the daughter of The Queen of the Night, Pamina, held captive by the Freemason Sarastro. The Queen of the Night appears and, instead of helping Pamina to escape, insists that Pamina murder Sarastro - in one of opera's most challenging and impressive arias.

However, the story takes a different turn. Sarastro, and Pamina's gaoler Monostatos, attempt to persuade Pamina that the Masonic life is wholesome and her captivity is for her own good. Two subsidiary characters, Papageno and Papagena provide a romantic dimension with their comic love songs. Confusing, but highly entertaining, Mozart's last opera is a dazzling classical spectacle.

Queen of the Night
English Touring Opera
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Tues 13 - Thur 15 May 7.30pm
Pre-Show Talk: Wed/Thur 6.30pm
Libretto: Emanuel Schikaneder
(translated into English)
Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Papageno: Wyn Pencarreg
Monostatos: Stuart Haycock
Pamina: Annabel Mountford
Sarastro: Piotr Lempa
Papagena: Hannah Sawle
Conductor: James Southall
Tamino: Ashley Catling
Queen of the Night: Samantha Hay
Pamina: Anna Patalong
Sarastro: Andrew Slater
Papagena: Caryl Hughes
Conductor: Michael Rosewell
Tamino: Nicholas Sharratt
Queen of the Night: Laura Meloy
Book Online

Benjamin Britten's Opus 17 is a two act operetta with words by the twentieth century poet Wystan Hugh (W. H.) Auden. The eponymous Paul Bunyan is recognised in the United States and Canada as a mythical French Canadian hero of the 1837 rebellion against the rule of Queen Victoria.

The significance of this myth was exaggerated as part of an advertising campaign created by William Laughead for the Red River Lumber Company in the early twentieth century. Paul was re-invented as a Californian and, retrospectively, became a folk hero. Many American cities have since invested in larger-than-life statues of him. Laughead also invented a companion for Paul Bunyan, a blue ox called "Babe".

When the Dandy was first published in 1937, it included a character invented by Dudley D Watkins - called "Desperate Dan". The character became familiar to British children, and reflected many of the hyperbolic attributes of Paul Bunyan. During the twentieth century, largely through Laughead's work, Bunyan became known as a lumberjack of immense size with a comparably large ox as a companion. 

In Laughead's updated folk tales, many American geographical features are attributed to Bunyan and Blue. The Great Lakes, Grand Canyon  and Mount Hood are explained as relics of the two setting up camp.

The prologue of Britten's operetta recounts the Bunyan myth. First the trees and forest animals foretell with fear the birth of Bunyan. Then the first ballad describes his birth and his exceptional and rapid growth. By the opening of Act One, Bunyan has set up a logging camp in the Southern United States and recruits a team of lumberjacks from his native Sweden. Two cooks, Sam and Ben, join the group along with some animals and finally, and somewhat reluctantly, a book-keeper called Johnny Inkslinger.

Bunyan marries and has a daughter whom he ironically names "Tiny". The story develops as a complex biographical narrative, following the experiences of Bunyan and his foreman Hel Helsen, alongside the romance between Tiny and the new and superior camp cook "Hot Biscuits Slim". The action is accompanied and illustrated by arias for all the characters, including several animals and such arbitrary figures as the Moon and the Wind.

First performed in Columbia University in the City of New York, shortly before the United States entered the Second World War, the operetta was not well received. A revised version created by Britten in 1976, has been staged and recorded several times. Bringing this work to life for a 2014 UK audience has been a challenge for English Touring Opera - crowned with success and the much-coveted Olivier Award.

English Touring Opera
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Friday 16 May 7.30pm
Pre-Show Talk: 6.30pm
Sir Benjamin Britten
Conductor: Philip Sunderland
Voice of Bunyan: Damian Lewis
Tiny: Cary Hughes
Johnny Inkslinger: Mark Wilde/Adrian Dwyer
Hot Biscuit Slim: Ashley Catling
Sam Sharkey: Stuart Haycock
Ben Benny: Piotr Lempa
Hel Helson: Wyn Pencarreg
Cross Crosshaulson: Matthew Sprange
Jen Jenson: Maciek O'Shea
Pete Peterson: Matt R J Ward
Andy Anderson: Adam Tunnicliffe
Fido: Abigail Kelly
Moppet: Amy J Payne/Emma Watkinson
Book Online

Michael Tippett began work on his third opera after moving to Wiltshire in 1960. He wrote both the words and the music, and completed the work (and an additional War Requiem) in time for performance at the festival to mark the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in 1962.

The story, taken from Homer's "Iliad", opens with King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Their son Paris is prophesied to grow up and cause his father's death. Like Oedipus, Paris is handed over to another character (after some arias of indecision) for summary dispatch. Also like Oedipus, Paris is not killed but fostered out to a group of shepherds. (Details of the early life of Paris are taken from the "Fabulae" of Gaius Hyginus.)

After a heroic reunion with his father. The adult Paris is then embroiled in the familiar anthropomorphic conflict between three goddesses. Hermes instructs him to choose between them, with the inevitable result that the remaining two curse him, so ensuring the doom of Troy.

By the beginning of Act Two, Paris has abducted Helen, the wife of the Spartan King Menelaus. In a reversal of Paris' dilemma, Helen's former suitors had all promised to protect the couple if they were not chosen. They have formed an expeditionary force and besieged the city of Troy.

The dialogue in this act is mainly between King Priam and his two sons, Paris and Hector.

Act Three moves to the perspective of Hector's wife Andromache and Queen Hecuba. A third woman, Helen, enters ensuring maximum conflict. To clarify the literary allusion, the three pray separately, each to a different one of the three goddesses who originally appeared to Paris.

A concerted attack on Troy by Achilles leads to a series of reprisal killings, and we all know who the final victim will be. Characters from earlier in the story reappear to narrate the action, along with the god Hermes. It is Hermes who, having initiated the tragic sequence of events, but being immortal, is the survivor at the end. He provides the epilogue before returning to join the other gods at Olympus.

King Priam: Roderick Earle
English Touring Opera
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Saturday 17 May 7.30pm
Pre-Show Talk: 6.30pm
Sir Michael Tippett
Conductor: Michael Rosewell
King Priam: Roderick Earle
Hecuba: Laura Meloy
Hector: Grant Doyle
Andromache: Camilla Roberts
Paris: Nicholas Sharratt
Helen: Niamh Kelly
Hermes: Adrian Dwyer
Achilles: Charne Rochford
Patroclus: Piotr Lempa
Book Online

Tickets for all ETO Operas:
£19, £24, £30, £33
Student Standby £8
Telephone: 01392 493493

No comments:

Post a Comment