Fans of Britten’s music do not have to look far in this, the composer’s centenary year, for opportunities to see his operas performed. One of the most eagerly awaited productions however, is the return to Covent Garden – 60 year’s after its premiere – of Gloriana which features no less than four Askonas Holt artists.
Toby Spence (one of the world’s finest Britten interpreters, who this year sings the War Requiem in London, Munich and Zürich) sings Essex, confidante and favourite of Elizabeth I, and Kate Royal (whose Britten roles have included Helena and an acclaimed Governess at Glyndebourne) sings Lady Penelope Rich, his sister. Mark Stone (whose Britten appearances this year include the War Requiem in Milan and Ned Keene in concert performances of Peter Grimes with the LPO and Vladimir Jurowski) makes a welcome return to Covent Garden as Mountjoy and Brindley Sherratt (who will sing Claggart in the Glyndebourne Festival’s production of Billy Budd later this summer) takes the role of the Blind Ballad Singer.
Commissioned to celebrate the Queen’s coronation in 1953 Gloriana has had a somewhat chequered history and has not enjoyed the success of some of Britten’s more popular works. In fact, it was a notorious flop at it’s premiere due, in no small part, to an audience comprised principally of foreign dignitaries in town for the coronation, most of whom were unfamiliar with Britten’s musical idiom and not – it must be said – regular opera goers ! There was an attempt to revive interest in the piece 10 years later with a concert performance given at Sadler’s Wells to mark the composer’s 50th Birthday. Any positive notices this first revival might have received were pushed from the front pages by reports of the assassination of President Kennedy, which took place that same night and rather overshadowed all other news of every kind ! There could be no better opportunity then, than this Britten’s centenary year as well as the 60th anniversary of both the work’s premiere and coronation of its dedicatee to bring Gloriana back to London’s grandest stage. Richard Jones’ production received a tremendous reception when it opened at the Hamburg State Opera earlier this season and it is sure to generate fresh interest in this neglected masterpiece.
Performances take place on 20, 22, 24, 29 June and 02, 06 and 06 July.