This autumn, English Touring Opera will present no fewer than five operas by Handel, in London and on a UK tour. It’s quite an undertaking, marking the company’s 30th birthday as well the composer’s 250th anniversary (he died in 1759).
The Handelfest represents the most ambitious challenge of ETO’s three decade history, with all five productions playing on consecutive nights in a number of venues. The series will launch at London’s Britten Theatre on 15 October (within the Royal College of Music, next to the Royal Albert Hall) and then visit Malvern, Exeter, Bath, Snape and Cambridge.
The five operas on offer are Flavio, Teseo, Tolemeo, Alcina and Ariodante. The latter two are perhaps better known than the others, having been produced reasonably regularly in recent years, while the others are relative rarities.
ETO has drawn together a talented company of experienced, as well as newer, performers and directors/designers who will be familiar to their regular audiences. The company’s artistic director James Conway will direct two (Alcina and Tolemeo, the new productions in the line-up).
Conway says of the season: “ETO’s Handelfest is a very exciting project: to stage five operas in five nights and then tour them is unprecedented, but it’s a fantastic way to celebrate the Handel anniversary and showcase a high point in the history of British opera. As always at ETO we have some extraordinary talent working with us in these productions and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate out 30th anniversary than bringing together that talent in an ambitious project to mark a titan of British Opera.”
Casts will include exciting singers like Claire Booth, Katherine Manley, Wendy Dawn Thompson and Derek Lee Ragin and you can find full details of the Handelfest season at www.englishtouringopera.org.uk. Tickets in London begin at £10.
- Simon Thomas