Opera Holland Park continues to surprise its diverse audience with eclectic offerings; indeed, the company’s egalitarian spirit and focus on both popular and obscure (mostly Italian and especially versimo) operas has certainly brought the genre to a larger, younger audience whilst still catering for aficionados. To successfully do both is no easy task; it seems, though, that the wise leadership of the indefatigable Michael Volpe goes a long way in maintaining Opera Holland Park’s position as one of London’s leading companies.
Volpe’s penchant for programming (rare) Italian operas is surely more than a simple coincidence, as their subject matter appeals to a wider (often uninitiated) audience. Interestingly, from an academic perspective the company’s negligence toward German opera—coupled with its director’s exuberance for populist ideals—can be interpreted as reinforcing the now passé hierarchal distinction between the two genres, but, as I hint, the programming is probably better perceived as a wise economic decision.
The company’s current season includes the rarely performed Zanetto (Mascagni), presented in a double bill with Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi Both will be new productions by director Martin Lloyd-Evans and designer Susannah Henry; the performances will be conducted by Manlio Benzi, who will be making his London debut. The up-and-coming Patricia Orr will sing Zanetto opposite Janice Watson as Sylvia. Gianni Schicci features the veteran Alan Opie as the mischievous lead, while the ensemble cast includes Anna Patalong as Lauretta, Carole Wilson as Zita, and Jung Soo Yun as Rinuccio.
Zanetto will surely be the highlight of the season, but it follows the opener, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. This Lucia is a new production by Director Olivia Fuchs and designer Jamie Vartan, and will be conducted by company regular Stuart Stratford. The talented Elvira Fatykhova plays Lucia opposite Aldo Di Toro’s Edgardo; both are relatively new but should provide a great show.
Following Lucia is Mozart’s classic Cosí fan tutte, also in a new production directed by Harry Fehr and conducted by Thomas Kemp. Elizabeth Llewellyn and Julia Riley, as Fiordiligi and Dorabella respectively, play the cunning sisters and the quartet is completed with Andrew Staples as Ferrando and Dawid Kimberg as Guglielmo. It will be particularly interesting to hear Llewellyn tackle the notoriously difficult role after her triumph in ENO’s production of Figaro (2011).
The company’s 2012 tour of Italian opera—and its season—ends with Verdi’s Falstaff (best for last?), happily also presented in a new production directed by Annilese Miskimmon and designed by Nicky Shaw. Performances will be led by Peter Robinson and include Olafur Sigurdarson as Falstaff, George von Bergen as Ford, and Linda Richardson as Alice Ford.
Undoubtedly Opera Holland Park’s production of Falstaff will give the Royal Opera’s a run for its money: after all, there is nothing like a bit of healthy competition—especially between two of London’s best companies.
More information is available at http://www.operahollandpark.com/.