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Cambridge Handel Opera Company returns with history in mind

By Gemma Gardner

Julian Perkins - supplied by Cambridge Handel Opera Company
Julian Perkins - supplied by Cambridge Handel Opera Company

Newly-revived Cambridge Handel Opera Company (CHOC) will be staging the Baroque composer's Rodelinda in The Great Hall at The Leys next month.

The company, formed in 2016, aims to build on the legacy of the Cambridge Handel Opera Group (CHOG) which from 1985 to its closure in 2013 put on biennial staged productions of Handel’s operas.

It was led by Handel scholar and former director of studies in music at Selwyn College, Dr Andrew Jones, and their productions stood out for marrying historically informed performances with historically appropriate staging.

CHOC’s production will celebrate the fusion of music and the stage with performances that are not just historically informed, but historically inspired.

Led from the harpsichord by artistic director Julian Perkins, the company combines period instrumentalists from the ensemble Sounds Baroque with students. The cast brings together young professional solo singers for what promises to be a spectacular performance of Rodelinda.

Mr Perkins, who has conducted staged productions for the Buxton Festival and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, as well as performing as a solo harpsichordist in productions for the Royal Opera House, also helped to spearhead the company’s resurrection.

In the concert’s programme, he said: “There will be meaningful integrity between what happens in the music and what happens on stage. Baroque stagecraft will be incorporated into our productions in a manner that speaks directly to audiences.”

Rodelinda is an opera seria in three acts and is widely regarded as one of Handel’s greatest works.

It is a dramatic tale of power, anguish, and love. When Grimoaldo takes Bertarido’s throne, Bertarido flees abroad, leaving behind his grieving wife Rodelinda. The usurper tries to force Rodelinda to love him, but when the exiled king returns in disguise, everyone is put to the test. Rodelinda is filled with intense drama told through ravishingly beautiful music.

Taking the role of Grimoaldo is William Wallace, winner of the 2016 London Handel Singing Competition.

The tenor graduated from the National Opera Studio, as a 2015/16 Young Artist, and the Royal College of Music. In February, he was touring as Almaviva in Rossini’s Barber of Seville for Swansea City Opera.

The company’s productions will also include events for the wider community, with a series of educational workshops for state schoolchildren in Cambridge, opportunities for advanced music students, and seminars that focus not only on the music and drama, but also on the cultural arena in which Handel competed – and ultimately flourished.

Rodelinda will be performed at The Great Hall, The Leys, from Tuesday, April 3 to Saturday, April 7 at 7pm. There will also be a study afternoon on April 7 at 2pm in the recital room at West Road Concert Hall.

Tickets: £27.50-£37.50. Box office: 01223 357851 or cambridgelivetrust.co.uk.


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