To mark its 30th anniversary, Bampton Classical Opera will present a new production of Salieri’s La fiera di Venezia (The Fair in Venice, 1772). At the Venice Fair features a new English-language translation by Bampton’s co-artistic director Gilly French.

Set during Venice’s Festa della Sensa (Ascension Day Mass), the opera concerns a philandering duke, whose amorous pursuit of a young woman is thwarted by the unexpected arrival of his fiancée. Much of the action hangs on the characters being masked or otherwise disguised. This rumbustious and colourful comedy features a Venetian street market, a rigged raffle, a masked ball and, ultimately, a triple wedding.

First performed in the illustrious Burgtheater in Vienna in 1772, La fiera di Venezia was Salieri’s sixth opera. It became a great success, and during his lifetime was staged more than 30 times throughout Europe. Many aspects of the opera were experimental, aimed at creating an engaging and often unpredictable comedy.

However, after the composer’s death, the opera fell out of favour and it has rarely been performed since. Bampton’s new production represents the work’s UK premiere.

It features tenor Andrew Henley as hapless duke Ostrogoto, soprano Ellen Mawhinney as Falsirena, the woman he is after, and soprano Joanna Songi as his betrothed Calloandra. All three singers are making their Bampton debuts. Also new to the company is baritone Aaron Kendall as the man Falsirena is in love with, Belfusto. Tenor Peter van Hulle returns to the company as Grifagno, Falsirena’s father.

The third couple is Cristallina, a market trader sung by soprano Iúnó Connolly, and Rasoio, the innkeeper. The singer who was originally cast in this part has unfortunately had to pull out; his replacement is yet to be announced.

At the Venice Fair is the fourth of Salieri’s operas that Bampton has revived; the company aims to rescue forgotten classics, focusing on “rarities from the late 18th century, sung in lively new English translations”. This new production opens at the Deanery gardens, behind St Mary’s Church in Bampton, for an outdoor performance on 21 July. A second performance takes place on 22 July. Both shows start at 7pm.

The production then moves to the Orangery at Westonbirt School for a 5pm performance on 28 August. It will receive a final outing at London’s St John’s Smith Square on 13 September.

All performances of At the Venice Fair will be conducted by Thomas Blunt and directed by Bampton co-artistic director Jeremy Gray. Tickets for the Bampton and Westonbirt performances are on sale now. They cost £42. Details for the St John’s Smith Square performance are yet to be revealed.

Also part of Bampton’s 30 anniversary season is a double-bill of Haydn comedies, The Diva (La canterina, 1766) and The Apothecary (Lo speziale, 1768). The diva in the former is Gasparina, a temperamental, manipulative and grasping young singer who is given a singing lesson by the lecherous teacher Maestro Pelagio. Gasparina’s chaperone-cum-agent Apollonia and Don Ettore, a handsome jewel thief, get involved and the situation deteriorates rapidly.

The latter is about a love quartet between work-shy chemist Sempronio, his beautiful (and rich) ward Grilletta, and his two love rivals, poor apprentice Mengone and wealthy dandy Volpino.

The cast includes Iúnó Connolly (Gasparina/Grilletta), soprano Madeline Robinson (Don Ettore/Volpino), tenor Guy Beynon (Apollonia/Sempronio), and tenor Henry Ross (Don Pelagio/Mengone). The conductor is Mark Austin, and the production is directed by Jeremy Gray.

The performance is part of the Northern Aldborough Festival. It takes place on 15 June, at 6.30pm, at St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough. A second performance of The Apothecary will take place at the Barn at Old Walland, Wadhurst, on 9 September. Tickets cost £75, from Bampton.

There will also be an exhibition of costumes, props and artefacts celebrating 30 years of Bampton Classical Opera at Bampton Community Archive, Old Grammar School, Bampton. It runs from 13 June-6 August, every day at 10am-4pm. Admission is free, with an accompanying book for sale written by Jeremy Gray.

Finally, the public final of the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2023 will be on 25th November in The Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College, Oxford.



Bampton Classical Opera marks its 30th anniversary with the UK premiere of Salieri’s At the Venice Fair.