Category Archives: Opera Holland Park

Opera Holland Park 2017: Kát’a Kabanová and Zazà

We had an incredible 2017 Season, our fourteenth season as Orchestra in Residence, at Opera Holland Park. And just like with the first two operas, and all British open-air productions, the wind, rain and thunder threatened to overthrow performances in the second half of the Season – but to no avail. Here’s what some of the critics had to say about Kát’a Kabanová and Zazà…

WhatsOnStage (★★★★★) described Kát’a Kabanová as ‘Janáček’s most richly coloured and disturbingly flavoured score’ – with which conductor Sian Edwards agreed in our Views From The Pit podcast. Edwards, in her Opera Holland Park debut, was given full credit by the media, with Seen and Heard International exclaiming that ‘it was Sian Edwards’ conducting that lit the night up, inspiring the City of London Sinfonia to unheard-of heights’, and The Stage (★★★★) adding that ‘she and the City of London Sinfonia convey the score’s atmospheric power with incisive eloquence’.

Classical Source (★★★★★) loved Zazà, Leoncavallo’s ‘curious’ opera, in which ‘City of London Sinfonia and Peter Robinson was on fine form, relishing the music, and particularly well-managed were the off-stage banda and choral moments’, and the Daily Express (★★★★) thought ‘City of London Sinfonia under conductor Peter Robinson brings out the lushness of the score’. Despite Zazà not quite hitting the mark with The Times, other papers such as The Telegraph (★★★★) and The Guardian (★★★★) had plenty good to say about the new production, giving full praise to Peter Robinson’s ‘sensitive conducting’ of ‘Leoncavallo’s skillful orchestration’.

More from the press

Kát’a Kabanová

WhatsOnStage: ‘The belting City of London Sinfonia assails the ear with immaculately dosed helpings of romance and horror; and together with the OHP Chorus, whose members personify Kát’a’s paranoia in movement director Clare Whistler’s mime work, they respond rousingly to Sian Edwards’s rhapsodic conducting…’

The Stage: ‘Making her company debut in the pit, conductor Sian Edwards understands its complex style perfectly, and she and the City of London Sinfonia convey the score’s atmospheric power with incisive eloquence.’

The Spectator: ‘Sian Edwards conducted, and it was baleful, headstrong, ecstatic and raw…’

The Arts Desk: ‘Conductor Sian Edwards leads a well-paced account, nuanced but with no holding back at the searing climaxes… Rather than leitmotifs for the characters, Janáček employs different moods in the music to depict each, and Edwards did an excellent job of delineating these separate styles. She deserves much credit for the success of this revival, as does the entire cast for the compelling musical drama they make of this ensemble piece.’

Classical Source (★★★★): ‘Sian Edwards draws some powerful, idiomatic playing from the City of London Sinfonia, and she is a natural when it comes to releasing Janáček’s fleeting tenderness and realising his extraordinary powers of musical characterisation.’

Opera Today: ‘Sian Edwards drew precise, taut playing from the City of London Sinfonia…’

MusicOMH (★★★★): ‘Sian Edwards’ conducting is excellent, while all of the principals succeed in filling the large tented auditorium to good effect.’

Zazà

The Telegraph: ‘Peter Robinson’s sensitive conducting honours the evanescent fragrances of Leoncavallo’s skillful orchestration…’

The Guardian: ‘Conductor Peter Robinson gets the tricky mix of glitz, sadness and sensuality exactly right.’

Evening Standard (★★★): ‘Conductor Peter Robinson delivers a rousing and, when necessary, raucous orchestral commentary.’

Daily Mail (★★★★): ‘This superb Zazà readily shows off many similar magic moments… There’s some truly beautiful music here, especially for the orchestra.’

Daily Express: ‘The City of London Sinfonia under conductor Peter Robinson brings out the lushness of the score and the Opera Holland Park Chorus supplies backstage bustle, while Louise Winter portrays dipsomaniac mother Anaide.’

The Independent (★★★★): ‘Peter Robinson’s expert conducting is a reminder that Leoncavallo was a resourceful orchestrator as well as a dependable librettist.’

The Stage (★★★★): ‘The City of London Sinfonia’s authoritative playing of Leoncavallo’s appealing and impassioned score under Peter Robinson’s vital baton sets the seal on this worthwhile re-launch.’

Bachtrack (★★★★): ‘Leoncavallo’s score is opulent, rich and melodious throughout, and Robinson conducts it with plenty of accent and a fair degree of precision.’

The Spectator: ‘The strings sweep upwards, the horns surge, and Leoncavallo’s Zaza throws itself into your arms.’

Planet Hugill: ‘…under Peter Robinson’s direction the City of London Sinfonia drew out the beauties of Leoncavallo’s rather luxuriant score.’

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CLS to perform in Grenfell Tower memorial performance at Opera Holland Park

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington in June, there will be a memorial performance of Verdi’s Requiem held at Opera Holland Park on Tuesday 1 August in aid of the Rugby Portobello Trust, to raise funds for the community. Our musicians, along with the Opera Holland Park Chorus, soloists and conductors, will be donating their time to raise funds for those affected and to support our friends at Opera Holland Park.

The tragedy happened just a mile away from the venue and Opera Holland Park has been directly affected, with a member of their stage team still missing and a number of their community projects taking place in that community. On 23 June, our musicians and the cast of Opera Holland Park’s production of La rondine performed an encore of ‘Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso’ in loving memory of their friend and colleague.


We are pleased to say that the event is sold out and are extremely grateful for your support. Read more about the event, or just donate…

Opera Holland Park 2017: La rondine & Don Giovanni

We’re proud to be performing, as Orchestra in Residence, at Opera Holland Park in their Summer Opera Season once again in 2017. The reviews for the first two operas, La rondine and Don Giovanni, have been so great that we feel a lot like we’re in a Puccini nightclub sequence. Here’s what the critics have had to say so far…

Culture Whisper (★★★★★) was elated that the season-opener, the new production of La rondine, ‘illustrates to perfection what OHP does best’, adding that ‘in many ways the night belongs to conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren, spinning a sparkling City of London Sinfonia like a top’. The Guardian (★★★★) also showed admiration for ‘the City of London Sinfonia – brass especially – spirited and infectiously enthusiastic’.

WhatsOnStage (★★★★) crowned La rondine ‘a visual and musical feast’, and gave praise to ‘the ever-splendid City of London Sinfonia, whose annual residence is one of the company’s outstanding boasts, [who] played the score for all its worth under Matthew Kofi Waldren’s elegantly energised baton’, while the Daily Mail (★★★★) didn’t ‘expect to see anything much better this summer’.

In Don Giovanni, The Times (★★★★) announced that ‘[Dane] Lam’s general approach is invigorating… and the City of London Sinfonia plays vivaciously’, and WhatsOnStage’s (★★★★) reviewer turned up on a particularly weathersome night, remarking on the cast’s and orchestra’s resilience on a particularly ‘tempest-toss’d’ cruise ship: ‘gosh what a night….Opera Holland Park’s heroic stage company – and, especially, the splendid City of London Sinfonia under Dane Lam – carried on serenely while the audience adopted the brace position and clung for dear life.’

With the ‘gem-like orchestral colours’ (The Arts Desk) of La rondine, and a ‘great deal of musical panache’ (Limelight) in Don Giovanni, the Opera Holland Park 2017 Season has sailed to critical acclaim.

Photos © Stephen Thomas Smith for Opera Holland Park, 2017

More from the press

La rondine

The Guardian: ‘The chorus was on soaring form, the City of London Sinfonia – brass especially – spirited and infectiously enthusiastic. Conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren kept the tempi fluid and well paced. This was a buoyant start to a varied season.’

The Times (★★★★): ‘Everyone in Magda’s [Elizabeth Llewellyn] circle dreams of something, and the characterisation of the supporting ensemble… is a delight.’

The Arts Desk: ‘…what works here has most of the gem-like orchestral colours and vocal glamour it needs. Matthew Kofi Waldren is excellent at steering the deft mood-changes and easy lilt of the score…’

Bachtrack (★★★★): ‘Matthew Kofi Waldren drew a first-class performance from the City of London Sinfonia, revelling in the glorious froth and whimsy of the score, occasionally threatening to overpower the singers early on in the performance, but highlighting so much of the sweeping beauty and orchestral detail of Puccini’s writing that one could sit there and wallow in that alone.’

The Stage (★★★): ‘There’s lush support from the City of London Sinfonia under Matthew Kofi Waldren and the energetic Opera Holland Park Chorus.’

Seen and Heard International: ‘…the orchestration is magnificent and all credit to Matthew Kofi Waldren for coaxing the orchestra to its best…Dance rhythms were infectious; elsewhere, one heard a level of detail one might have considered unlikely given the quasi-outdoors setting…A special mention, too, for the leader, Martin Burgess and his various solos, all magical… In act three, Llewellyn and the orchestra conspired to provide moments of magic in her soliloquy as she reminisces.’

Daily Express (★★★★): ‘The City of London Sinfonia under Matthew Kofi Waldren gives a fine performance of Puccini’s evocative score.’

Financial Times (★★★★): ‘With two strong voices on the stage, conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren allows the City of London Sinfonia to raise its decibel levels above the average at Holland Park, and La rondine comes across as a more full-blooded opera as a result.’

The Independent (★★★★): ‘…a cast commandingly led by the charismatic Elizabeth Llewellyn, Matteo Lippi with his gorgeously Italianate bel canto, and Stephen Aviss as a flamboyantly camp and mellifluous poet. Direction by Matthew Kofi Walden is sure-footed, designs by takis are inventive.’

Don Giovanni

Classical Source (★★★★): ‘Dane Lam leads a very fleet account of the score, full of light and shade, with a beguiling propulsive quality about it; and there were many moments where the transitions between the orchestra and Stuart Wild’s admirable continuo (on piano) were seamless.’

Seen and Heard International: ‘Dane Lam and the City of London Sinfonia were firing on all cylinders throughout the performance’

Limelight (★★★★): ‘Lam…demonstrated a great deal of musical panache…The City of London Sinfonia obviously enjoy working with him and respond eagerly to his musical direction.’

The Stage (★★★): ‘…it’s in Dane Lam’s vital conducting and the clean-edged playing of the City of London Sinfonia that the performance shines most brightly’

Financial Times (★★★★): ‘In the title role, Ashley Riches has the elegance and swagger to make us believe in him to the bitter end, while Graeme Broadbent bellows authoritatively as the Commendatore.’

Evening Standard (★★★★): ‘In the pit, Dane Lam conducts firmly rather than elegantly, but the semi-open air acoustic allows occasional intrusions of birdsong — an effect that Mozart himself might have enjoyed.’

Culture Whisper (★★★★): ‘…this summery production of Mozart’s opera enjoys its comic potential from the outset’

Music OMH (★★★★): ‘Oliver Platt’s production for Holland Park not only succeeds in retaining the class system involved but, by being extremely innovative, delineates it to the full.’

City of London Sinfonia will be back in the Opera Holland Park pit in Kát’a Kabanová (starts 15 July) and Zazà (starts 18 July).

Mark Paine, CLS Horn Player talks OHP

2015 marks City of London Sinfonia’s twelfth year as Orchestra-in-Residence at Opera Holland Park, and we’re very sad that it all came to an end this weekend. In celebration of our collaboration with the festival, we caught up with one of our long-standing members, Mark Paine who has been with us from the very beginning.

We can’t believe it’s been 12 years since our (and your!) first production with OHP! What has been your favourite show over the years?

Yes this 2015 season is my twelfth at Opera Holland Park with CLS. I played in the orchestra’s first season back in 2004, starting with Bellini’s Norma, and I have played nearly every opera each summer since then. That makes 64 operas, averaging let’s say eight performances… bringing me to over 500 shows! Definitely a record of some sort. And it has been an absolute privilege and pleasure! I have been a part of some of the best music- and drama-making anywhere, and have been made, by the inspired owners James and Mike, to feel welcome at the very heart of the Opera Holland Park family. With 64 productions to choose from how can I single out one? If pushed I would have to say Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová back in 2009. But there are so many others I could mention. All of them have been in some way incredibly special, even ground-breaking.


From an orchestral musician’s perspective, what is the difference between performing on stage as part of a concert and in the pit as part of an opera?

Over the years I’ve been doing it, Opera Holland Park’s speciality has become the so-called verismo operas that burst while hot onto the Italian operatic scene in the early 20th century. Treading where no other opera company dares, OHP has unleashed onto the UK opera world six or so of these terrifying and unforgettable operas, to great acclaim. It has been wonderful to be a part CLS’s commitment to these spectacular undertakings, and literally to feel every one of us giving that little bit more, responding to the artistic challenge. CLS has matured as an orchestra by so doing.

What advice would you give to a CLS member who is embarking on their first production at OHP?

My advice to a CLS member embarking on their first production at OHP would be to take it incredibly seriously, to give it your absolute maximum. The rewards are rich and our contribution is noted and valued. It’s not just a lovely place to be on a summer’s eve; it’s something quite unique both professionally and personally.

Mark Paine and Joan Sutherland at Opera Holland Park, Summer 2009
Mark Paine and Joan Sutherland at Opera Holland Park, Summer 2009

And finally—any funny anecdotes?

My abiding memory of OHP… getting to meet the late Dame Joan Sutherland, who attended on crutches a performance that Richard Bonynge was conducting for OHP. I have been a fan of hers forever, and I managed to get some private time with her at the post-opera party. Desperate to talk to her about her legendary Lucia di Lammermoor triumphs, I had instead to let her tell me all about her beloved vegetable patch into which she had just fallen and broken both legs. But do you know it turned out better than I could have imagined – I got the true Joan, and a wonderful photo to treasure. Thank you OHP for everything.

OHP Behind the Scenes: Concert Management

With only a few final performances to go, Opera Holland Park is nearly over for another year and so our Concert Management team must move on to new (probably indoor and peacock-lacking) endeavours. But what exactly did they see and do during their time there?

As part of our OHP Behind the Scenes blog series, we thought we’d delve a little deeper into the kinds of things they got up to, and here’s the evidence:

 

Despite its resemblance to a tombola machine, this is in fact the wind machine for La Fanciulla del West. (We were asked at least twice per performance what it was!)

 

At the Amadeus Centre with conductor Steuart Bedford (no, the horn player at the back is not asleep, just stretching his legs!)

 

Glyn Matthews setting up the tubular bells ready for the performance of  Turn of the Screw

 

Watching a vertically-challenged Minute Maestro conduct the Orchestra at the Opera Holland Park Family Open Day.

 

Pumping up the harp trolley’s flat tyres. Luckily, most of our French Horn players are keen cyclists, and Chris Newport had a bike pump handy, making the job a lot easier.

 

Weekly trips to Tesco to buy tea-making ingredients and plenty of biscuits for hungry musicians…

 

Marking string bowings backstage!

 

Is it a tuba? A trombone? No, this is Stephen Wick playing a cimbasso in rehearsal ready for Bellini’s Norma!

 

Sharing is caring for CLS & OHP behind the scenes! One of the musicians brought in some aubergine plants – needless to say, they were taken up very quickly!

OHP Behind the Scenes – The Musicians

Ever wondered what it’s like to work as a musician at Opera Holland Park? As Orchestra-in-Residence for the 11th year this year, we thought we’d give our lovely readers a teeny insight into the ‘orchestral life’ at this fantastic outdoor summer opera festival. With biscuits, gun shots, evening chills and more, we caught up with one of our longstanding members, Mark Paine (Horn) who told us some of his favourite memories and moments of his experience during his time in the OHP pit over the years (just to clarify, by ‘pit’ we mean the orchestral variety – not a muddy hole in the ground).

 

(C) Fritz Curzon
(C) Fritz Curzon

How long have you been playing at Opera Holland Park?

I think this is my 11th season can you believe! Well, ever since CLS first started doing it.

 

And what’s been your favourite opera?

Of course, everyone will say this – it’s terribly difficult to say. But my most memorable, and therefore favourite, has got to be L’amore dei tre re which we did with Peter Robinson. Without interval, it was a continuous crescendo from beginning to end and I guarantee you nobody took a breath in the audience until the final gun shot which finished it. It was just amazing.

 

I hear biscuits are essential for any performance at Opera Holland Park. How many packets of biscuits do you think the Orchestra have  consumed so far this season?

Shopping trip for biscuits for OHP!
Shopping trip for biscuits for OHP!

 

Haha how many packets? Well, probably 3 per night, so according to my mathematical calculations… About 100?! (He’s not far off here – we get through a shocking amount of biscuits!)

 

What makes performing at OHP different to other opera houses or opera companies that you’ve worked with?

Oh, a million things. The peacocks, the sub-zero temperature… It really is very, very special. It’s a combination of so many things. Great music, great operas, interesting repertoire and such engaged producers as James Clutton and Sarah Crabtree. It’s a fantastic company and a unique experience which is why I make sure I come back every season.

 

(C) Fritz Curzon
(C) Fritz Curzon

Coming up at Opera Holland Park

Bellini Norma, 19 July – 8 August

Cilea Adriana Lecouvreur, 24 July – 9 August

Opera Holland Park so far…

The summer months mean one thing and one thing only here at the City of London Sinfonia: Opera Holland Park! Marking our 11th consecutive year as orchestra-in-residence at “London’s Glydebourne”, this year’s season has got to be one of the finest. With so many fantastic productions to choose from –Britten’s haunting Turn of the Screw, Rossini’s ever-popular comedy La Barbiere di Siviglia and Bellini’s wonderful Norma…– and all amidst the leafy glades one of the most beautiful parks in West London, we couldn’t recommend the festival enough, even if only to witness the resident peacocks cooing along to the catchiest of arias or the tent-like theatre built upon the fragmentary ruins of Holland House.

Four weeks in and so far we’ve seen everything from counts, gold-miners, Sheriffs, Vegas-style polka saloons, doctors, barbers, disguise, love, lust, gambling, mischief and plenty of pizzazz. We also mustn’t forget the fantastic singers who really make the festival what it is. It’s definitely been a hectic, but very exciting, few weeks so far, and to think we are only half way through the season! Here are some of our favourite pieces of feedback from Opera Holland Park so far, along with some of the fantastic press it’s been getting:

La Fanciulla del West 

Stuart Stratford conducted the City of London Sinfonia on peak form“, David Gutman, Classical Source, 5 June

Conductor Stuart Stratford demonstrates an impeccable ear for the detail of superb Puccini’s orchestral writing“, George Hall, The Stage, 4 June

★★★ “Barlow just lets Puccini get on with it, which is probably why it works so well.”, Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 4 June

With the expert City of London Sinfonia, in their raised pit, on constant display, Puccini’s score was spread out before us in all its ingenuity. On so many occasions the sonic effects or rhythmic brilliance prompted the thought ‘Puccini? Surely not!’.” – Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 8 June

★★★★”The overture starts with a blinding flash of light, a fierce bass note and an exhilarating crash of wild, sweet music from the City of London Sinfonia.” – Anna Picard, The Times, 5 June

Opera Holland Park has a knack of discovering young singers with big voices.” – Free News Pos, 8 June

★★★ “Puccini’s girl of the golden West has at last found the popularity she always deserved” – Richard Fairman, The Financial Times, 4 June

 

La Barbiere di Siviglia

★★★★”Matthew Waldren’s conducting is highly intelligent and controlled, and generates some beautiful playing from the City of London Sinfonia.” –  musicOMH, 14 June

The warm tone of Kitty Whately as a pretty and determined Rosina was well matched by the strong vocal power of Nicholas Lester as Figaro, and their late Act I dialogue Dunque io son … was a delight.” – Mark Ronan, 15 June

★★★★ “Lam had a confident control of the complex rhythms in Rossini’s music, with some nicely steady ensembles and a highly infectious elan. The City of London Sinfonia responded with some vibrantly vivid yet controlled playing.” – Planet Hugill, 16 June

★★★★”The City of London Sinfonia responded well to Matthew Waldren’s baton, his apt tempo choices and a persuasive musical momentum compensating for an absence of pointillist detail. The strings were on gleaming form...” – Whats On Stage, 12 June

 

Coming up at Opera Holland Park

Britten The Turn of the Screw, 1-12 July

Bellini Norma, 19 July – 8 August

Cilea Adriana Lecouvreur, 24 July – 9 August

 

All photos taken by Fritz Curzon, photographer-in-residence at Opera Holland Park.

Playing London 2013

Our mid season London concerts brochure is now available to view online and includes information and booking details for all our London appearances from March to August 2013. Highlights include our mini festival in April celebrating the life and times of French composer: Francis Poulenc, our final CLoSer concert of series two, and our return as resident orchestra to Opera Holland Park in June. So get those diaries out and pencil in some dates!

CLS credit Benjamin Ealovega

 

Five fast Falstaff facts!

Windsor

1.    Falstaff is adapted from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV. Verdi wrote two other operas based on Shakespeare plays – Macbeth and Otello.

2.    Falstaff was the last opera written by Verdi when he was 80 years old.

3.    Out of Verdi’s 26 operas – only 2, including Falstaff, were comedies.

4.    Another operatic version of Falstaff was written before Verdi’s opera, by the Viennese classical composer Antonio Salieri (1750-1825).

5.    Elgar composed an orchestral work titled Falstaff – Symphonic Study based on the character of Falstaff.

Tales of Tchaikovsky

The penultimate in our series of opera trivia looks at Tchaikovsky‘s opera Eugene Onegin.

Russia

1.    The idea of basing an opera on Pushkin’s novel Eugene Onegin was not one of Tchaikovsky’s, but a suggestion from a friend, the Russian mezzo-soprano Yelizaveta Andreyevna Lavrovskaya.

2.    In 1892, the first performance in Hamburg of Onegin was conducted by Gustav Mahler.

3.    Whilst working on Onegin, Tchaikovsky was also composing his Fourth Symphony.

4.    The sketches of Eugene Onegin were never found, however we know from Tchaikovsky’s letters that he had sent a draft to his close friend Nadezhda von Meck.

5.    Tchaikovsky worried that Eugene Onegin would “never become established as a staple of the opera repertoire in major theatres”. How wrong he was! According to operabase.com, Eugene Onegin is the 18th most performed opera in the world.

 

Remaining performances of Eugene Onegin at Opera Holland Park are on July 19, 21, 23, 25, 31, August 2, 4 at 7.30pm