The Kennet Opera web site is at www.kennetopera.co.uk. Twitter: @KennetOpera
Picnic Opera Concerts, 10th July, evening at Old Church House, Wantage
Picnic Opera Concerts, 11th July, evening at Shaw House, Newbury
Picnic Opera Concerts, 8th August, afternoon at St Peter's Church, Brimpton
We managed to bring opera alive in late summer 2020, with distanced outdoor concerts in Wantage and Newbury. We chose arias and choruses from grand operas that we all love – Puccini, Verdi, Mozart and more – and numbers that could be rehearsed and performed with social distancing. We called them Opera Unlocked and presented them in the gardens at Old Church House in central Wantage and on the lawns of Shaw House, Newbury. For 2021, outdoor concerts are our startpoint once more. We've booked both those venues again for July.
Review of The Magic Flute
21st to 23rd November 2019
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Hoot of a Flute
Think Butlins with better music… Kennet Opera’s comic take on Mozart
Kennet Opera: The Magic Flute, at Arlington Arts, Snelsmore, from Thursday November 21, to Saturday, November 23
As befits the beginning of the festive season – and the Magic Flute's mix of fantasy and fare – Kennet Opera's latest production sees Mozart's opera played as a comedic pantomime.
Mozart moved opera out of the court and into the theatre; an innovation in its time. This production, sung in English, with the humorous contemporary translation of the dialogue giving nods to this area (Basingstoke and Slough took some flak), was set in the 1950s, in a seaside holiday camp. Think Butlins with better music. The approach played to some enjoyable stereotypes of English provincial life: patronising aristocrats, well-meaning village ladies and sexual attraction across the class divide. Inventive re-naming of the characters fitted the holiday-camp theme.
Set designer Suzanne Thomson took a very effective minimalist approach, with a lit, open rhomboid structure on a central platform, flanked by two lower wings, one housing the small chamber orchestra. Lighting designer Vicky Allen lit the central structure in different colours and levels of brightness to both create and reflect differing moods.
Sung in English, the cast's excellent diction in both vocal and spoken passages was a major plus for the singspiel form. Stage director Jim Petts not only made the convoluted plot legible, but along with casting and translation, diluted what can be problematic aspects of the opera for contemporary audiences: an antediluvian attitude to women; a stereotypical view of black sexuality and miscegenation when Monostatos is cast conventionally, as a Moor; and the strand of Freemasonry running through the plot (both Mozart and librettist Schikaneder were Masons).
Kennet Opera fielded a strong ensemble of singers, with the set-piece choral singing a very enjoyable element. Of the principals, the Queen of the Night is a pivotal, testing role, combining icy regality with vocal fireworks. It needs a seriously good coloratura soprano, and Hannah Dobra was more than up to the task, with a commanding presence and a secure, acrobatic voice. Soprano Rachel Crisp combines dramatic ability with warmth, expression and ease in all vocal registers: she was a bubbly, likeable Pamina.
Tenor Robert Felstead made a winning, friendly Tamino; his strong voice has a good bottom end. Baritone Luke Deacon as Papageno married vocal agility and a pleasing tone to comedic skill. He was well matched by Lucy Kitt as a sassy Papagena, their famous patter duet spirited and fun. Bass James Mitchell was a solemn but dramatically static Sarastro, and Duncan Powell played Monostatos as a dim lecher, rather than an incipient rapist.
Don Crerar's Senior Bluecoat was a stately, thoughtful figure; his sidekicks Ant Goffart and Adrian Slatter deserve plaudits simply for having the gumption to appear on stage in those execrable bathing suits… There were very enjoyable harmonies by the trio of sea cadets (Cathy Black, Helen Maguire and Clare Kirk) and by the cabal of interfering busybodies (Tamsin Slatter, Alex Merckx and Susan Moore). Imaginative costuming by Helen Ryan saw them in 50s two-piece suits with weaponised handbags and brollies.
The influence of music director Justin Bindley is evident in the high vocal standard and in the orchestra's committed playing, with arrangement by Callum Morton Hüseyin.
Kennet Opera continues to bring enjoyable productions of grand opera to local people. Now in its 25th year, it's a remarkable achievement.
The Magic Flute, 21st to 22nd November 2019
Viva Verdi!, 22nd June 2109 at Wantage Methodist Church
14th July 2019 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Hungerford
14th August 2019 at Sutton Hall, Stockcross
16th August 2019 at St Peter's Church, Brimpton
Dido and Aeneas, plus The Zoo, 8th to 10th November 2018
Pop-up Puccini, 22nd September 2018 in Wantage
Puccini Greats, 15th August 2018 at StockFest
Puccini Chunks, 14th July 2018 at Our Lady of Lourdes, Hungerford
Pop-up Puccini, 16th to 17th June 2018
The Marriage of Figaro, 2nd to 4th November 2017. See the review in the archive.
1791: Mozart's last year, summer 2017. See the review in the archive.
La Cenerentola, 9th to 12th November 2016. See the review in the archive.
Summer Concert, 25th August 2016 at Sutton Hall, Church Road, Stockcross
Summer Concert, 2nd July 2016 at St Lawrence's Church, Hungerford
Opera Gala, 18th June 2016
La Traviata, 5th to 7th November 2015
An Evening with Kennet Opera, 26th August 2015 at St John's Church, Stockcross
The Wonderful World of Opera, 4th July 2015
A Night at the Opera, 23rd May 2015
Nabucco, 13th to 15th November 2014. See the review in the archive.
Delight in Singing, 5th July 2014 at St Lawrence's Church, Hungerford
La Bohème, 14th to 16th November 2013. See the review in the archive.
Spring Sing, 5th July and 10th August 2013
Macbeth, 15th to 17th November 2012. See the review in the archive.
Die Fledermaus, 17th to 19th November 2011. See the review in the Archive.
Open Air Concert, 23rd July 2010 at Hungerford Rugby Club
The Elixir of Love, 24th to 26th June 2010. See the review in the Archive.
Carmen, 5th to 7th November 2009.
The Magic Flute, 13th to 15th November 2008. See the review in the Archive.
Faust, 8th to 10th November 2007.
Sweeney Todd, 8th to 11th November 2006. See the review in the Archive.
Eugene Onegin, 10th to 12th November 2005. See the review in the Archive.
The Pearl Fishers, 11th to 13th November 2004. See the review in the Archive.
The Elixir of Love, 11th to 15th November 2003. See the review in the Archive.
La Traviata, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th November 2002.
Cavalleria Rusticana & I Pagliacci, 13th and 15th to 17th November 2001. See the review in the Archive.
The Marriage of Figaro, 2000
A Masked Ball, 1998
La Boheme, 1997
La Traviata, 1996
Carmen (abridged version), 1995
Cosi fan Tutte, 1994