Bampton Classical Opera is set to stage a new production of Gluck’s Paride ed Elena (1770), the Oxfordshire-based opera company has announced. Performances will take place at The Deanery garden, Bampton, Oxfordshire, on 23 and 24 July, The Orangery Theatre, Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, on 30 August and London’s St John’s Smith Square on 24 September.
These shows have been rescheduled from 2020, which marked 250 years since the opera’s premiere at the Burgtheater, Vienna, in 1770. Ranieri de’Calzabigi’s French libretto has been given a brand new English translation – Paris and Helen – by Gilly French, Bampton’s artistic director.
The opera tells the story of the passionate and tempestuous encounter between the legendary Helen and Prince Paris of Troy. It charts the events that take place between the Judgment of Paris – in which the prince presents a golden apple to the goddess Aphrodite, declaring her as the fairest of the goddesses, and earning him the unrelenting scorn of her divine competitors, Hera and Pallas Athene – and the flight of Paris and Helen to Troy.
The action begins with Paris, son of the powerful King Priam of Troy, arriving at Sparta with his entourage of Trojan warriors. He is there to claim the beautiful Helen, promised to him by Aphrodite. Despite Helen’s betrothal to Menelaus, the Spartan king, Paris attempts to win her with passionate declarations of love.
Smitten by this handsome stranger, Helen is determined to resist, but thanks to the persistent and playful strategies of Amor – disguised as the queen’s advisor Erasto – she gives in. However, Pallas Athene appears to sternly warn the couple of the fatal consequences of their illicit love, but her words go unheeded as the entranced lovers depart for Troy, and so set the scene for the Trojan wars.
Bampton has gathered together a cast of young professionals who are emerging into significant national and international careers. Singing the title role of Paris, originally composed for a castrato, is soprano Ella Taylor, who won second prize in the 2020 Ferrier Awards and is making their professional stage debut.
Opposite them as the feisty Helen is soprano Lucy Anderson, first-prize winner in the 2019 Bampton Young Singers’ Competition. New to Bampton will be soprano Lauren Lodge-Campbell, causing mischief as Amor, while returning to the company is soprano Lisa Howarth as Pallas Athene.
The Orchestra of Bampton Classical Opera, performing at Bampton and Westonbirt, and CHROMA, at St John’s Smith Square, come under the baton of conductor Thomas Blunt. The production is directed by Bampton Director of Productions Jeremy Gray.
Paride ed Elena is the third of Gluck’s reform operas, following Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) and Alceste (1767). These works represented the composer’s rejection of Baroque extravagance and ornamentation. He wanted to produce a more simplified model of opera seria, replacing the obscure plots and overly complex music of that style. de’Calzabigi, who shared Gluck’s desire for reform, wrote the libretti for all three.
The opera is the least-often performed of the three and these performances follow Bampton’s exploration in recent years of Gluck’s neglected shorter works. “We have made a speciality of little-known short operas by Gluck,” the company said in a statement. “And we’re now excited to be working on this major work by him. Paris and Helen is at times sumptuous, tender, honest and, yes, certainly beautiful. We are proud to add this major work to our already extensive Gluck repertoire.”
Tickets are available now and all performances will follow current government Covid-19 regulations; please be aware that some restrictions may apply. For further details, prices and show times, visit Bampton Classical Opera’s website for the Bampton and Westbirton shows and the St John’s Square website for the London performance.
The role of Paris will be sung by soprano Ella Taylor, making their Bampton Classical Opera debut.