Following the residency of Grange Park Opera from 1998 to 2016, The Grange Festival quickly became among the top five opera occasions in the UK….
In the heart of Hampshire, The Grange Festival transforms its Grade-I listed neoclassical mansion into the heart and soul of opera from 7 June to 8 July. Opera-goers this season can expect the first ballet included in an English opera festival, Agrippina by Handel at his delicious best, a starry international cast in The Barber of Seville, a celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s genius with Candide, plus the quirky, entertaining The Abduction from the Seraglio by Mozart, a perfect composer for The Grange.
A Season Guide to The Grange Festival
The 2018 season is marked by its fun, wit, brilliance and humour. The season opens, though, not with an opera, but with its sister art, dance – a first for not only Grange, but all English opera festivals.
7-10 June. The excitement of dancers from the Royal Ballet and the Wayne McGregor company may be reason this event is now sold out.
It has been a long-held dream of mine to curate an evening of iconic classical and modern ballet alongside incredible contemporary dance whilst at the same time trying to avoid the traditional ‘gala’ format. I would like to create an evening that places seminal pieces of our heritage repertory with newly created work of innovative intensity where physicality flows seamlessly together and where each of the works is individually distinct and opens the audiences’ eyes to the diversity and thrill of the human form. – Wayne McGregor
8, 16, 23, 28 June, 6 July.
Following their five-star production of Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Michael Chance and Robert Howarth join forces to lead the musical direction in another story from the classical world. Anna Bonitatibus heads a cast including the countertenor Raffaele Pe, 2011 London Handel Singing Competition winner Stefanie True and Jonathan Best who returns to The Grange. Walter Sutcliffe, Northern Ireland Opera’s artistic director, and his designer Jon Bausor’s inspired vision brings to life the humour, satire and egomania of one of opera’s most outrageous leading women: Sister to Caligula, wife of Claudius and mother of Nero….
9, 15, 17, 22, 27, 30 June.
Based on the first of the Beaumarchais plays that revolve around the Almavivas and Figaro, Le Barbier de Séville, Rossini’s Barber, one of operas greatest masterpieces of comedy, will be conducted by Rossini specialist David Parry. Making their Grange debuts, Stephen Barlow and Andrew D Edwards reunite with Howard Hudson to follow their successful La Boheme, bringing sparkle, fun and finesse to an opera full of great tunes, exhilarating rhythms and electrifying ensembles.
24, 26, 29 June 1 7 July.
With five-star reviews across the board for Albert Herring, John Copley returns to direct Mozart’s first comic masterpiece in a specially commissioned English translation by David Parry. Jean-Luc Tingaud also returns to conduct the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Mozart’s score.
A Broadway and West End cast will bring to life Bernstein’s mad, clever, witty, optimistic riff on humankind. Never has a Broadway show been more worked on and revised, and never has a madder idea been attempted – turning Voltaire’s stinging satire into musical theatre. With infectious, outrageous music, Bernstein feels Voltaire’s blast against tyranny, snobbery and false moralising.
Where to stay? The Wellington Arms, Baughurst, Hampshire. There’s something pretty special about ‘The Welly’. It’s a real foodies’ pub, owned and run with great charm by Simon Page (front of house) and Jason King (award-winning chef). Set in countryside on the Hampshire/Berkshire border, it has a burgeoning kitchen garden and a field where hens, bees, sheep and pigs are kept. The dining room – there are just 12 highly prized tables – is delightfully informal. There are four bedrooms: the Apartment is a one-bedroom suite above the pub. Then, tucked away in a converted 17th-century, oak-framed hay store are two striking guest rooms, all exposed brickwork and timber beams, and outside a green oak barn, the Cart House. Doubles from £110.
Artistic Director, Michael Chance CBE shares why Grange is special.
How does this year’s festival contrast or build from the work of others? ‘When planning my first festival for 2017, I looked at what had been staged at The Grange since the start of opera there 18 years before. It was obvious both to fill some of the gaps but also build on some of what had clearly worked in the theatre and been popular. The theatre itself is terrifically flexible and intimate. I have seen how really imaginatively staged and brilliantly sung baroque operas have caught the imagination all over Europe and that was clearly, also with The Grange’s historical and aesthetic context, an area worth exploring. And Mozart operas featured less than I expected. So we start this year with his musical theatre, The Abduction from the Seraglio, and continue next year with The Marriage of Figaro.I wanted to present classy comedy and satire, as well as searingly beautiful lyricism and involving drama. I believe we have all that this year. The Barber of Seville, opera’s most popular comedy, and Candide, Bernstein’s whacky and brilliant Broadway show, complete the sung bill of fare. But quite separate and distinct from all of these are two evenings of Dance and Ballet, which have really caught the imagination, and look likely to be the start of a beautiful friendship.’
What is the way to get the most out of attending Grange? ‘Arrive early. Leave late. Take your time. Revel in the landscape. People watch. Meet old friends. And have the beauty of the house and the landscape present in your minds as the doors to the theatre are closed behind you, and you are transported into a magical musical world. Oh, and eat and drink as the fussiest epicurean would desire. ‘
Is there a feature or salient characteristic of Grange that makes it unlike any other arts festival? ‘It is commonly held to be the most jaw-droppingly beautiful of all the country house opera festival locations. And the award winning theatre fully complements with acoustics and sight-lines as good as anywhere. The artistic aspirations of what goes on the stage are on an international level. And we now offer the new ingredient of Dance – under the visionary Wayne Mcgregor, and starring this summer Ed Watson, Marianella Nuñèz, Calvin Richardson, and many others. I believe we are unique in adding dance at this level.’
Are there any 2018 themes or trends that have inspired or influenced the material in the festival? ‘In an age of fakery, humbug and dread, I want audiences to forget, if only for an evening, these lowering clouds darkening our lives. The mood of this year is joy, fun, comedy, and gentle satire. When opera gets those right, it stays with you for a long time.’
For more music and merriment check out the the best small & boutique festivals of 2018.
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