The Opera Holland Park 2018 Season began on 29 May with La traviata, directed by Rodula Gaitanou and conducted by former OHP Young Artist, Matthew Waldren. Richard Fairman, writing in The Financial Times, said that it was “a long time since any La traviata looked and felt as beguiling as this”.
The Australian soprano Lauren Fagan’s role debut as Violetta was hailed as remarkable in The Sunday Times, The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday and The Stage, and the production sold out after a string of four and five star reviews that noted the quality of the supporting cast and chorus, the beauty of Cordelia Chisholm’s fin-de-siècle set and costume designs and the detail and brilliance of Gaitanou and Waldren’s preparation.
The run of La traviata included a touch tour and audio described performance in collaboration with VocalEyes. In Opera magazine, this year’s Young Artists performance of La traviata was praised as “urgent but sensitively calibrated”, and a second YA performance was seen by almost 1,000 local children at OHP’s inaugural schools’ matinee on June 13. For many in the audience, this was their first experience of live opera. The attentiveness of the children and the roar of their applause was an early highlight of an extraordinary season.
Later that day, OHP produced the Hope for Grenfell Memorial Gala, which brought together members of the community with many of our own singers and special guests from outside the world of opera, including Dame Penelope Wilton, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter and Celia Imrie. The programme, which included the premiere of Help Me Believe, a specially commissioned piece by Will Todd and Gareth Malone, raised over £100k for the Rugby Portobello Trust.
The 2018 OHP Season welcomed more young and old newcomers to opera through our International Opera Awards-winning Inspire programme, with free tickets schemes, ongoing work with Playlist for Life and Opera for Thought, and numerous performances in the community. In our Refuge in Harmony project with the British Red Cross, unaccompanied minors aged between 15 and 21, who had travelled to Britain from more than 20 different countries, performed together on the OHP stage during our Open Day in a piece drawn from their stories and with designs of their own creation.
The second production of the Season, Oliver Platt’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, featured “expert vocalism” (The Stage) from the central sextet of new and established OHP soloists, including former OHP Young Artist Nick Pritchard as Ferrando. Four star reviews also praised the City of London Sinfonia, in their 15th anniversary as our resident orchestra, under the baton of Dane Lam.
Following the annual Summer Performances by students of The Royal Ballet School, the second half of the season featured a five star production of Ariadne auf Naxos, which was celebrated for its insight, conviction, freshness and musical refinement in The Guardian, The Observer, The London Evening Standard and Financial Times. Directed and designed by Antony McDonald, this co-production with Scottish Opera was the first Richard Strauss opera to be performed at OHP, with a cast of company favourites, including Jennifer France as Zerbinetta and Julia Sporsén as the Composer, and debut artists, including Mardi Byers and Alex Otterburn.
The season ended with the UK premiere of Mascagni’s 1911 opera Isabeau, which marked OHP’s first transatlantic co-production, and will be revived by New York City Opera next year. Conducted by Francesco Cilluffo, Isabeau saw the return of Anne Sophie Duprels in the title role, alongside the OHP principal debut of David Butt Philip as Folco. Hugh Canning, writing for the Sunday Times, called Duprels a “touching, impassioned, vocally fearless” Isabeau and described Butt Philip’s performance as “ardent and heroic”. Alongside enthusiastic notices from The Telegraph and The Guardian, Isabeau attracted the attention of reviewers from Spain and Italy, with La Stampa commenting on the irony of having to go to Kensington to hear an opera that had been neglected in Italy for fifty years. Sold out before its opening night, the fifth Mascagni opera to be produced in OHP’s acclaimed strand of giovane scuola rarities brought the season to a thrilling close.
All images by © Robert Workman and Ali Wright for Opera Holland Park.