Handelfest, the future, and preparing for opera

Wednesday 18 November 2009

The Handelfest is in Cambridge now, after a split week in Bath and Snape last week.

Last night was the final Flavio! I found myself unusually sad about that – a lot of work for not so many shows. Jonathan Kenny (conductor) had hurt his back and was worried about his springing style last night – after a wonderful, well-received, sell-out show in Snape – but all went well in the first act (by which point I had to leave for London). I am determined we will revive this jubilant, tender show in Autumn 2011 – with a new Radamisto, and maybe some Purcell, or maybe some Rameau? The only consolation for losing projects on which there has been a really joyful collaboration – like this Flavio - is to think of new possibilities.

A special pleasure this time out have been the pre-performance talks. I fear I like performing too much. Certainly I have met a lot of people who like opera, and want to know more operas, and want to maximise their experiences of opera by coming ‘well prepared’. Of course the most valuable preparation is to eat moderately and well, to be willing to think and to feel, and to accept that things have been made without cynicism or shallowness. But people do seem to feel that it is helpful to know how and why we have worked as we have. Maybe it is like declaring conventions in a hand of bridge?

Too many ‘last performances’ this week… Teseo tonight. And yet there is a debut, too: Annabel Mountford is going to sing the role of Agilea, taking over from an indisposed Claire Booth. I look forward to that exciting duet in Act 4, with no place to breathe… Speaking of places to breathe, I’d better get to the train station if I am to make Della Jones’ masterclass in Cambridge this afternoon.

Another final performance is In the Belly of the Horse on Saturday morning at the Cambridge Arts; it’s our new opera for 4-8 years olds telling the story of the Trojan War in just over an hour. Wonderful, energetic, sweet. I saw it in a Cricklewood school on Monday, and hope to get to Cambridge for Saturday morning – just before a discussion with Mary Beard about Theseus!

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