Odyssey Opera Announces THE BRITISH INVASION: A Festival of English Musical Dramas

Odyssey Opera, a Boston-­??based opera company dedicated to exploring the full spectrum of adventurous repertoire, today announced THE BRITISH INVASION, a month-­??long opera festival of fully-­??staged productions of works by English composers. From May 17-­??June 20, Boston opera lovers will have the unique opportunity to choose from four evening-­??length programs encompassing nine diverse operatic works, including the Boston premiere of Vaughan Williams's Sir John in Love, a double bill of Walton's The Bear and Sullivan's The Zoo, five compelling monodramas, and Ade?s's masterpiece of modern cultural commentary, Powder Her Face. (See below for complete program details.)

"British opera doesn't play safe, and neither does Odyssey Opera," said Gil Rose, artistic director/founder/conductor of Odyssey Opera. "We look forward to sharing some of British opera's high theatrics with Boston audiences. Against a background of decline on the global opera scene, Britain started to produce operatic composers and dozens of successful works in the 20th century. This resurgence of the English language opera was remarkable. The floodgates of English opera opened in the 20th century and the genre has been taking strides ever since."

Credited with a major role in the early 20th-­??century revival of a British musical identity, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-­??1958) was a central figure throughout six decades of British music before his death in 1958. The quintessential "Englishness" for which he is often cited drew on native resources like English folksong, rather than turning to foreign influences. Vaughan Williams's Sir John in Love (1928) has been hailed as a rare success in transposing Shakespeare to English-­??language opera. Odyssey Opera brings the joyous, exhilarating, wry humor of this opera to Boston for the first time. Music-­??Web International praised Sir John in Love's music as some of Vaughan Williams's "most inspired, subtle, tuneful and colourful."

One of England's most important composers of the generation between Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten was William Walton (1902-­??83). Walton's wit and sharp focus were a fresh addition to the English compositional tradition and inspired widespread admiration and affection. Odyssey Opera presents Walton's delightful one-­??act comic chamber opera The Bear (1967) based on Chekhov's play of the same name. Walton's finely honed, faithful operatic adaptation perfectly matches the tone of Chekhov's original. For a double-­??bill performance, Odyssey pairs The Bear with the one-­??act "musical folly" The Zoo (1875) by Arthur Sullivan (1842-­??1900). Best known for his comic operas as the composer in the Gilbert and Sullivan partnerships, Sullivan was praised by Welsh critic Ian Parrott as a uniquely "broad-­??minded musician" who transcended the confines of the light, popular genre in which he worked. Alongside Sullivan's Trial by Jury and Cox and Box, The Zoo has become a popular curtain raiser after long years of neglect.

For one night only, Odyssey Opera introduces audiences to a selection of the brightest stars among Boston's emerging vocalists in a special evening of monodramas by five great British composers of the 20th century. The program includes Phaedra by Benjamin Britten (1913-­??76), Ophelia by Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-­??2012), Four Poems of St. Teresa of Avila by Lennox Berkeley (1903-­?? 89), King Harald'?s Saga by Judith Weir (b.1954), and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (b.1934). Each of these works is a tour-­??de-­??force for a solo singer, sometimes inhabiting multiple roles.

Culminating THE BRITISH INVASION festival is the fully staged production of Powder Her Face (1995) by Thomas Ade?s (b.1971). Hailed with numerous honors and extensive praise as a phenomenally talented young compositional voice, Ade?s has become a major figure in the contemporary music world. According to The New Yorker, "he has outgrown his status as the wunderkind of a vibrant British scene and become one of the most imposing figures in contemporary music." Powder Her Face is a sardonic, darkly comic opera with a libretto by Philip Hensher inspired by the life, times, and tabloid-­??worthy exploits of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, a.k.a. the "Dirty Duchess."

About Odyssey Opera

Founded in 2013 by Artistic Director/Conductor Gil Rose, Odyssey Opera presents adventurous and eclectic works that affirm opera as a powerful expression of the human experience. Its world-­??class artists perform the operatic repertoire from its historic beginnings throughlesser-­??known masterpieces to contemporary new works and commissions in a variety of formats and venues. Odyssey Opera sets standards of high musical and theatrical excellence and innovative programming to advance the operatic genre beyond the familiar and into undiscovered territory. Odyssey Opera takes its audience on a journey to places they've never been before. www.odysseyopera.org

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PROGRAM DETAILS

SIR JOHN IN LOVE| Ralph Vaughan Williams Boston premiere

When: Sun 5/17 at 3:00 p.m., Wed 5/20 at 7:30 p.m. + Sat 5/23 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA

Conducted by: Gil Rose
Stage Direction: Joshua Major
Choreography: Melinda Sullivan
Scenic Design: Stephen Dobay
Costume Design: Katherine Stebbins Remesch Cast:
Sir John Falstaff-Oren Gradus
Ford-Michael Chioldi
Fenton-Samuel Levine
Anne Page-Megan Pachecano
Mrs. Ford-Courtney Miller
Mrs. Page-Mara Bonde
Mrs. Quickly-Cindy Sadler
Page-George Cordes
Sir Hugh Evans-Donald Wilkinson Pistol-James Demler
Nym-Jonathan Cole
Slender-Jesse Darden
Dr. Caius-Sumner Thompson
Host of the Garter Inn-Robert Honeysucker Bardolph-Stanley Wilson

Sir John in Love (1928)
A Shakespearean opera in English, Sir John in Love perfectly depicts the colorful characters and jumbled relationships of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. Vaughan Williams's setting of Shakespeare's text is magical and brimming with invention, including memorable Elizabethan verses, such as When daisies pied and Sigh no more, ladies, reimagined in song. The central character in Vaughan Williams's version is Shakespeare's "fat knight" Falstaff, who lovably embodies the mix of strengths and foibles that is human nature: a good-­??natured, self-­??aware portrayal that revels in comedy without becoming a caricature.

THE BEAR | William Walton + THE ZOO | Arthur Sullivan

When: Fri 5/22 at 7:30 p.m. + Sun 5/24 at 3:00 p.m.
Where: Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA

The Bear by William Walton Conducted by: Gil Rose
Stage Direction: Lynn Torgove Scenic Design: Stephen Dobay Costume Design: Amanda Mujica Cast:

Grigory Stepanovich Smirnov-Stephen Salters Yelena Ivanovna Popova-Janna Baty Luka-Simon Dyer

The Zoo by Arthur Sullivan Conducted by: James Blachly Stage Direction: Lynn Torgove Scenic Design: Stephen Dobay Costume Design: Amanda Mujica Cast:

Lætitia Grinder-Chelsea Beatty Eliza Smith-Sadie Gregg
Thomas Brown-Colin Levin
Mr. Grinder-Simon Dyer Æsculapius Carboy-Daniel Shirley

The Bear (1967)
Subtitled by the composer "an extravaganza" for three characters, The Bear is a lively parody of a romantic comedy involving vodka, debts, and fiery outbursts of temper. Based on a short play by Chekhov, The Bear is a humorous tale about an ostentatiously virtuous widow, Yelena Ivanovna Popova, and her late husband's boorish but well-­??intentioned creditor, Grigory Stepanovitch Smirnov.

The Zoo (1875)
With a libretto written by B.C. Stephenson and music by Arthur Sullivan, The Zoo remained unpublished and unperformed for many years. This one-­??act "musical folly" is sprightly and charming, unfolding through cleverly set arias, choruses, and patter. The story of The Zoo concerns two pairs of lovers: a nobleman in disguise who visits the object of his affections at her refreshment stall, resulting

in an overdose of sweets, and a despairing young chemist who believes that he has poisoned his beloved by mixing up her father'?s prescription with peppermint that he had meant for her.

KINGS, QUEENS, SAINTS AND SINNERS: FIVE MONODRAMAS

When: Sat 5/30 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA

Conducted by: Gil Rose
Phaedra for Mezzo-­??soprano, Strings, and Percussion by Benjamin Britten featuring Erica Brookhyser
Ophelia for Countertenor and Strings by Richard Rodney Bennett featuring tba Four Poems of St. Teresa of Avila for Contralto and Strings by Lennox Berkeley featuring Stephanie Kacoyanis
King Harald'?s Saga for Solo Soprano by Judith Weir featuring Elizabeth Keusch Eight Songs for a Mad King for Baritone and Ensemble by Peter Maxwell Davies featuring Thomas Meglioranza

POWDER HER FACE | Thomas Ade?s

When: Thu 6/18, Fri 6/19 + Sat 6/20 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boston Conservatory Theater, 31 Hemenway Street, Boston, MA

Conducted by: Gil Rose
Stage Direction and Scenic Design: Nic Muni
Costume Design: Amanda Mujica
Cast:
The Duchess-Patricia Schuman
Hotel Manager/Duke/Laundryman/Other Guest-Ben Wager
Electrician/Lounge Lizard/Waiter/Priest/Rubbernecker/Delivery Boy-Daniel Norman

Powder Her Face (1995)
A collaboration between Thomas Ade?s and librettist Philip Hensher, Powder Her Face explores the intersection of gender, politics and power through the prism of the life story of Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, dubbed the "Dirty Duchess." In the 1930s, she was one of the most photographed women in the world and a style icon for millions; by the 1960s, she had gained notoriety through a series of high-­??profile marriages, divorces, infidelities, sexual escapades, and extravagant living habits. She is perhaps best known for the explicit Polaroid photographs accompanying her divorce case from the Duke of

Argyll, an event whose salacious aspects captivated the public. In Powder Her Face, Ade?s plays off the public's obsession with the tabloid controversy and challenges audiences to reconsider what they think of the Duchess.



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