Handel’s Agrippina at The Grange

Handel: Agrippina
Academy of Ancient Music, Robert Howarth
The Grange Festival, Hampshire. 16 June 2018

Handel’s Agrippina was first performed in 1709 during the Venice Carnival when he was just 23. It was towards the end of his three-year stay in Venice and used a considerable amount of borrowed material from Handel and other composers. It was an immediate success, with a further 26 performances, but was not revived again until modern times. It is now considered his first major operatic success. With its story of intrigue, rivalry, and deception in historic Rome, Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani’s libretto for Agrippina is said to reflect his own political rivalry with Pope Clement XI. The plot tells of Agrippina’s ruthless plan to usurp her husband Emperor Claudius and place her son, the youthful Nerone, on the throne. The sexually provocative Poppea joins in the fray in a complex plan to undo Agrippina’ plot, not least in her attempts to discredit Ottone, who Claudius wants to create Emperor as a reward for saving his life. It certainly had many political and cultural undertones at the time, and perhaps still does today.

Stefanie True (Poppea)_Jonathan Best (Lesbo)_Handel's Agrippina_The Grange Festival 2018 ©Robert Workman.jpg

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Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria
The Grange, Northington, Hampshire. 18 June 2017

The Grange, in Northington, Hampshire, achieved it current form in the early 19th century, when the architect William Wilkins (later to design the National Gallery) encased a 17th century house in grand Greek revival style. Further work by Robert Smirke, architect of the British Museum, and Charles Robert Cockerell completed the scheme. It came to public notice in 1975 when the owners, a junior branch of the Baring banking family, attempted to demolish the building. The exterior was listed by the Government, on IMG_20170618_142530147.jpgaccount of its appearance and landscape importance, and placed into the guardianship of English Heritage, who instigated major restoration of the exterior of the building and opened the site to the public. It reached much wider appreciation in 1998 when the new Grange Park Opera took a 20 year lease from the Baring landlords, and started a summer opera season. In 2002 they built an award-winning new opera house within the shell of the old orangery, investing several million pounds in the project. They also did a considerable amount of work inside the shell of the building, including reinstating the dramatic staircase (pictured below). Disagreements with the Baring family led to Grange Park Opera decamping to a new home at the Theatre in the Woods at West Horsley Place, Surrey, not surprisingly taking many of the internal fittings from their Grange opera house with them. Continue reading

Primary Robins

Primary Robins
The Grange, 13 July 2016

Primary Robins is a project set up by Pimlico Opera with the aim of “using music and theatre to expand the outlook and enrich the lives of schoolchildren who have little exposure to songs and music”, as part of their own aim “to advance personal development, particularly with younger people”. Pimlico Opera is one of the two opera companies founded by Wasfi Kani (in 1987), the other being Grange Park Opera (in 1998). As part of Primary Robins, musicians have been working with schools in Hampshire, Durham, Kent and Nottingham to provide weekly singing lessons to some 1600 children.

As an afternoon curtain raiser to Grange Park Opera’s performance of Tristan & Isolde, a group of 120 children (all year-5, aged 10-11) from three of Hampshire primary schools crowded onto the Grange Park Opera stage Continue reading