Leaving aside an opening night concert featuring soloists from Cape Town Opera on the 5th of July, Buxton International Festival presents two further opera productions along with Eugene Onegin and Georgina this year.
Strictly speaking, one of them comes under the broad umbrella of operetta – actually, it’s opera comique, the most famous work penned by Offenbach, Orpheus in the Underworld – can-can, and all!
The slant it gets here remains to be seen when Opera della Luna returns following the company’s uproarious take on Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment last year – three performances: 8th (7.15pm); 11th (2pm); 17th (7.15pm) of July.
Also returning is Adrian Chandler’s super Baroque ensemble La Serenissima with another obscure Italian Baroque opera. At least its composer, unlike Brescianello last year, is not entirely forgotten but badly under appreciated, Antonio Caldara,.
Having said that, unearthing anything on the opera representing him, Lucio Papirio Dittatore, falls into the realms find me if you can, though Sgr Papirio would appear to be a dictatorial chap.
But, enough of levity. The opera by the hugely prolific, Venetian-born Caldara (1671-1736) could be the festival’s most conspicuous success. To quote the blurb for it:
“The story of family strife in pre-Imperial Rome, this forgotten gem by the Italian composer Antonio Caldara, featuring jubilant choral writing and dazzling virtuoso arias.
“Lucio Papirio Dittatore was composed by Caldara in 1719, by which time he was serving as vice-kapellmeister to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI.
“Being composed for the imperial court, there are a number of characteristics rarely found elsewhere in opera seria, such as the use of the aria madrigale, a large amount of ballet music and a significant number of choral movements.
“This is a work composed on a grand scale, glorifying both the genre of opera seria and the name of the emperor.”
A Caldara crash course, courtesy of Philippe Jaroussky, Caldara in Vienna (Forgotten Castrato Arias), 15 arias from 11 Caldarta operas, including a recit and aria from Lucio Papirio) lends a certain veracity to it.
It’s colourful, lyrical, melodic, virtuoso vocal writing, jubilant even! as well as imaginative, both vocally and instrumentally – a consummate delight in itself!
Small wonder the English composer Charles Avison wrote in his Essay on Musical Expression in 1752: “The chaste and faultless Corelli; the bold and inventive Scarlatti; the sublime Caldara”!!!
A first rate-looking cast is headed by the excellent tenor Robert Murray in the title role (you may recall him in the Brescianello opera last year) and Caldara’s Lucio Papirio is sung in its original Italian with English side titles.
There are three performances on the 9th and 13th of July (both 7.15pm), plus a matinee on the 18th (2pm).
All the operas in the festival are staged at the historic Buxton Opera House, including in the name of completeness, seven late morning performances of a community opera, The Orphans of Koombu, a South African chamber opera.
La Serenissima appear elsewhere divorced from Antonio Caldara and the human singing voice in this year’s jam packed festival between the 5th and 21st of July when the ensemble performs Vivaldi and re-visit Brescianello at St John’s Church.
Peter Donohoe, who gave his first public recital in Buxton longer ago than he probably cares to remember, is given a residency taking in four highly attractive late afternoon recitals at the Pavilion Arts Centre (10th-11th July; 15th-16th July).
Such names as Imogen Cooper, Benjamin Frith. Roderick Williams also appear, as do Voces8, the Ex Cathedra Consort, and there is a lunchtime Tchaikovsky string quartet cycle from returning Victoria String Quartet at St John’s Church (18th-20th July).
Full details for the whole festival can be found on the Buxton Festival website.