Divine Comedies: Christoph Willibald Gluck and Thomas Arne

Divine Comedies: Bampton Classical Opera

(Bampton Classical Opera, 22 July 2016)

Philemon & Baucis (Gluck)  ·  The Judgement of Paris (Arne)

On a warm summer evening, the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire is almost indecently beautiful. The golden stone glows in the sunlight, the leaves look even greener against blue skies dotted with fluffy clouds, and flocks of swifts dart at dusk around the church tower. But one thing sets the village apart from its Cotswold rivals. Every summer, the Deanery garden is transformed by an outdoor stage and Bampton Classical Opera put on productions of lesser-known Baroque music. Past years have featured a wealth of tantalising rarities and this season saw the performance of two one-act operas, given the overall heading Divine Comedies: first, Gluck’s Philemon and Baucis and, second, Arne’s Judgement of Paris.

Continue reading

Arias by Gluck: Sonia Prina

Sonia Prina

(with La Barocca, directed by Ruben Jais, Wigmore Hall, 28 June 2016)

Sonia Prina is one of the most colourful personalities in the world of Baroque music (which is saying something), and although I’d seen her on DVD as the warrior queen Partenope and the scheming vizier Artabano, I hadn’t heard her in the flesh until Tuesday at the Wigmore. Here she treated us to a programme of sparkling, mostly pre-reform Gluck. Performed with panache and a glorious disdain for convention, it was quite an experience.

Continue reading

Antigono: Christoph Willibald Gluck (1756)

Metastasio: Antigono

★★★

(Ensemble Serse, Grosvenor Chapel, London, 25 April 2015)

I know what you’re thinking. Serse again?! But no: fear not. No Xerxes today: instead I’m rather belatedly posting about Ensemble Serse, a London-based company of young musicians and singers who specialise in ambitious resurrections of Baroque opera. Their mission statement is to offer a musical experience that’s as close as possible to what an 18th-century audience might have heard. That means no cuts, all possible cadenzas and a take-no-prisoners attitude to singing.

Continue reading