Category Archives: Opera Holland Park

Tales of Tchaikovsky

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


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, 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


Songs for a rainy summer

Whilst we’re all waiting for the British weather to make up its mind and dreaming of escaping to sunnier shores, have a listen to our new summer playlist – guaranteed to make you smile come rain or shine.


Zany for Zanetto

As the Gianni Schicchi/Zanetto double bill at Opera Holland Park comes to an end this week, we focus on Mascagni‘s lesser known one act opera Zanetto.


1.    Mascagni had so many devoted fans during his lifetime that ‘mascagnano‘ was recognised as a common noun in the Italian dictionary.

2.    The premiere of Zanetto in 1896 featured as part of the annual celebrations for Rossini’s birthday.

3.    A private performance of Zanetto was held in London shortly after the Italian premiere, with Italian sisters Sofia and Giulia Ravogli.

4.    Five years ago in June 2007, Zanetto was performed in New York for the first time since its US premiere in October 1902.

5.    Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti, the librettist for Zanetto (along with Guido Menasci), was a lifelong friend of Mascagni’s, born in the same year and city.


The remaining performances of the Gianni Schicchi/Zanetto double bill are on July 12 & 14 at 7.30pm, as well as The Christine Collins Young Artists’ performance on July 14 at 2pm.

Gen up on your Gianni

For the next edition in our trivia opera guide for novices and opera buffs alike, we take a look at  Puccini‘s one-act opera Gianni Schicchi.

  • The work is the third and final part of Puccini’s Il trittico (The Triptych)—three one-act operas. When Il trittico premiered in New York, Rome and London, Gianni Schicchi was an immediate hit and by 1920 Puccini had given his reluctant consent to separate performances. Gianni Schicchi has subsequently become the most-performed part of Il trittico and has been widely recorded
  • The libretto is based on an incident mentioned in Dante’s The Divine Comedy


  • The world premiere took place at the Metropolitan Opera (above image) in New York unusually without Puccini being there
  • Woody Allen directed Gianni Schicchi for Los Angeles Opera in 2008
  • Gianni Schicchi was to be the last opera Puccini ever completed

Gianni Schicchi is in rep at Opera Holland Park until 14 July.

Check out our Opera Holland Park Pinterest Board for more interesting facts on this year’s season.

Trivia per tutte

Here’s the next edition in our trivia opera guide for novices and opera buffs alike. Cosi fan tutte is one of Mozart’s most well known and popular operas, but did you know…


1. Così fan tutte is rarely referred to in English, probably because it is tricky to translate! The complete title is Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti: “Thus do they all [women], or The School for Lovers” but is usually shortened to “Women are like that”.

2. Mozart’s life was in some ways similar to the story of Così fan tutte.  Prior to marrying his wife Constanze, he was interested in her sister Aloysia!

3. It was discovered in 1994 that Mozart’s contemporary Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) had also attempted to set the libretto of Così fan tutte to music, but did not complete his work.

4. Così fan tutte was rarely performed throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries as the storyline was considered to be rather risqué.

5. Since 1784, Mozart had been a member of the Freemasons and wrote several cantatas for their ceremonies. It is rumoured that he may have been killed because his opera The Magic Flute revealed the society’s secrets.

Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte runs until 7 July at Opera Holland Park 2012.

Looking into Lucia

Last night saw the opening of Opera Holland Park 2012, where we are resident orchestra for the ninth year running. There are six operas this season which runs until 4 August. Throughout the season we’ll be finding some fun facts on each opera to educate both opera novices and experts alike. This week we look at the opening opera, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.


1. The libretto for Lucia di Lammermoor, written by Salvadore Cammarano, was loosely based on The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott, a historial novel based on true events.

2. One of the most famous moments of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor is the mad scene in Act III, where the main character Lucia eventually descends into madness. Donizetti himself went insane towards the end of his life and spent a few years in an asylum.

3. The mad scene was originally written for glass harmonica, but is often replaced by two flutes. This unusual instrument consists of a collection of glass bowls and the sound is created through the friction of the player’s fingers against the rim of the glass.

4. There is also a less regularly performed French version of this opera, Lucie de Lammermoor, which opened in Paris in 1839, four years after the Italian premiere in Naples.

5. The popular ‘Lucia Sextet’ melody from Lucia di Lammermoor has been used in many films and cartoons, including an unusual interpretation in Disney’s The Whale who wanted to sing at the Met.

Flashback – Opera Holland Park 2004

For our Flashback feature we’ll be taking a trip down memory lane and remembering important moments in our history which have been both hugely enjoyable and musically impressive.

For our first instalment, we’re going back to the summer of 2004. The Athens Olympics were in full swing, Lance Armstrong had just won his sixth Tour de France and more bizarrely the pickled heart of Louis XVII France had just been entombed in the royal crypt at Saint-Denis in Paris! It was also our first summer as Resident Orchestra at Opera Holland Park where Bellini’s Norma, Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West and La Bohème, and Verdi’s Luisa Miller created a fantastic series of exciting productions for our first time at the Park.


Established in 1996, Opera Holland Park has become well known for its focus on adventurous productions, mixing well known classics with more obscure repertoire. Over the years we’ve been incredibly lucky to have had the privilege of working with many highly-renowned conductors throughout our time with the company including Brad Cohen, the late Noel Davies, Jane Glover, Stuart Stratford, and Richard Bonynge.

This year, we’re delighted to be returning for the eighth year running to perform among others Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Puccini’s La Rondine, Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Catalani’s La Wally.

There’s still plenty of opportunity to catch an aria or two before the current season ends; so make sure you don;t miss out and book your tickets now.

Six operas sitting quietly on a table…

We’ve just started rehearsals for our eighth season as resident orchestra at Opera Holland Park. This pile of six operas has been sitting quietly on a desk for the past few months waiting…


To the Opera Holland Park administration they represent the culmination of negotiations with artists, conductors, directors, publishers, costume & set designers and, of course, City of London Sinfonia. To readers of this blog it may mean a night out, with a tasty meal and a glass of wine culminating in a sublime evening of music and drama under the stars (weather permitting!). To orchestra members it is often a late night, not forgetting your glasses and paying bills – although definitely a great way to earn a living!

But to a music librarian the pile represents friends and colleagues, pencils and erasers, lots of sticky tape and a few big boxes.

Each of the operas has its own story – that’s pretty obvious really – but for me the stories are different. For Don Pasquale, the main character has been the guitar – do we need two, as Donizetti has written? Do we replace them with the harp which he gave as an option? Or do I talk nicely to the friend who has been booked as the guitarist and get him to fuse all the dots into one part. Accompanied by tambourine, of course!


L’Amico Fritz should be renamed L’Amico Stuart (the conductor). Between us we’ve sorted out the off stage brass band, erased lots of previous productions’ markings and stuck the pages back in the right order!

The Marriage of Figaro and La Rondine should be straight forward (always a dangerous saying) as both operas have been produced before at Opera Holland Park, they are nice clean sets (that’s librarian speak for no blue pencil) and all the bowings match – the majority of my work is making sure all the violins up-bow and down-bow at the same time!

The final pair, Rigoletto and La Wally, will make up for the lack of time I need to spend on the previous two. Bowings have to be coordinated, off stage bands integrated, cuts inserted. Plus all the Japanese writing removed – yes, all of these operas have a story, that of previous performances, other orchestras, occasionally the same cast, but all representing different things to different people and in different languages.

Jacqui Compton