If Opera 2023 Preview


If you’re looking to step into a musical wonderland this summer, If Opera festival, set in the enchanting eighteenth century garden of the privately owned Belcombe Court in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, is akin to tumbling down the rabbit hole. An unmissable way to crown an English summer of outdoor events, this year’s If Opera season, in partnership with the Bristol Ensemble, features an improved Saddle span theatre with wider seats and better acoustic and ventilation, with opera audiences invited to bring their own picnic to enjoy in the grounds before each performance and take advantage of the pop-up bar, Scout & Sage.

Umberto Giordano’s rarely performed Fedora (24, 26 August & 1 September) opens the season, directed by John Wilkie with If Opera’s Artistic Director Oliver Gooch conducting the Bristol Ensemble. A tale of love, murder and betrayal in three acts, the action takes place in Russia, France and Switzerland, when Princess Fedora, seeking revenge on the man she believes murdered her betrothed, sets in motion a series of tragic events that will ultimately cost her everything. First premiered in Milan in 1898, the great Enrico Caruso created the role of Loris Ipanov, a role Charne Rochford will be taking up at If Opera this year alongside Sky Ingram in the title role.

Fedora will be followed by a delightfully whimsical jazz production of Will Todd’s Alice in Wonderland which first premiered to great acclaim and sell-out performances at Opera Holland Park in 2013 and which all the family can enjoy, with an opportunity to picnic at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party table and meet the characters before the performance (27 August 1.30pm & 5pm).

For a more relaxed musical evening, If Opera’s famous Picnic Prom (28 August) features two headliners, jazz piano legend Jason Rebello (Wayne Shorter, Sting, Jeff Beck) and vocalist Joy Rose (Incognito, Billy Ocean) performing original songs and Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Cole Porter classics. The evening will finish with a set by The Coalminers, a 7-piece band bringing New Orleans rhythm and soul alive.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operatic masterpiece, The Mikado (29 & 30 August) presented by Charles Court Opera, with Tchaikovsky’s final opera, the fairy-tale Iolanta at the Wiltshire Music Centre (13, 15 & 16 September) is the grand finale to a varied programme combining romance, satire, fantasy and frivolity.

If Opera from 24th August to 16th September 2023. Ticket prices start from £20. For more information and tickets go to www.ifopera.com or call Bath Box Office on 01225 463 362.

If Opera photography by Ash Lipkin.

Image of Alice in Wonderland, originally commissioned by Opera Holland Park.