Garsington Opera in Oxfordshire opens on 31st May, the epitome of what a refined country house music festival should be, with fine dining and glamorous picnics by the lake, magical gardens and first class opera productions. And this year’s line-up of prestigious names is worthy of travelling the length and breadth of the country – and many do.
The first production to open Garsington’s 2023 season at their spectacular home on the Wormsley Estate is the cherished Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with actor-turned-director Christopher Luscombe making his Garsington directorial debut. Starring Katie Bray as Rosina and Richard Burkhard as Dr Bartolo, renowned designer Simon Higlett will capture early 1930s Seville, while The English Concert will be conducted by Garsington’s Artistic Director Douglas Boyd.
Tim Alberty directs the much anticipated new production of Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto, an intimate yet dramatic story resulting in a complex web of rivalry, jealousy, aggression and pent-up passion. Boasting an all-star cast featuring Robert Murray as well as exciting Garsington debuts from soprano Elizabeth Watts and countertenor Iestyn Davies, The English Concert will be conducted by Clemens Schuldt.
But it is Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos directed by Bruno Ravella that caught my eye, following Ravella’s hugely successful of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at Garsington in 2021. Design by Olivier-Award winning Giles Cadle promises to be utterly transportive, with star-soprano Natalya Romaniw leading the impressive cast as Ariadne, supported by Young Woo Kim as Bacchus and Jennifer France as Zerbinetta who is reprising the role from a highly praised Opera North production. Conductor Mark Wigglesworth reunites with the Philarmonia after last season’s acclaimed performance in The Turn of the Screw and is sure to capture all the drama of this operatic masterpiece.
Reviving their critically acclaimed 2019 production, Smetana’s hugely popular opera The Bartered Bride has been translated by director Rosie Purdie into a more familiar English setting, complete with village pub and a maypole on the green. Audiences will be delighted by the circus troupe with jugglers and acrobats, so too the escaped bear, beery drinking songs by the Garsington Opera Chorus and heart-stopping love duets and arias showcasing Pumeza Matshikiza as Mařenka and the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Jack Ridley.
Garsington Opera 2023 runs on selected dates from 31st May to 23rd July 2023. For more information and tickets, please visit the website or contact the box office on 01494 376037. www.garsingtonopera.org. Photos by Clive Barda.