Chelsea Opera Group (COG) will be holding concert performances of Assassinio nella cattedrale (Murder in the Cathedral, Pizzetti, 1958) and Roberto Devereux (Donizetti, 1837) this spring and summer, the south-west London opera company has announced.

COG is a unique company that has been performing concert opera since 1950, reviving unjustifiably neglected works and lesser-known versions of familiar favourites. In March, the group will host an English-language concert performance of Pizzetti’s opera Murder in the Cathedral, based on TS Eliot’s play of the same name.

Faith, politics, and power combine to deadly effect in this dramatic opera. The year is 1170, and Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, has returned to his seat after seven years in exile in France. He continues to oppose King Henry II, and is assailed by temptations to silence himself, to give up his position, to fight or to seek martyrdom. Banishing these demons, he delivers his Christmas Day sermon reflecting on birth, death and martyrs, and in the final act defiantly faces four murderous knights and their accusations of treachery.

The performance will be conducted by Martyn Brabbins, music director of the English National Opera. The role of Archbishop Becket is sung by British bass Sir John Tomlinson. The cast also includes lyric tenor Christopher Turner, baritone Matthew Durkan, bass baritone Emyr Wyn Jones and soprano Eleanor Dennis.

Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux is loosely based on the life of Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex and an influential member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Playwright Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian libretto after François Ancelot’s tragedy Elisabeth d’Angleterre (1829), and based also on the Historie secrete des amours d’Elisabeth et du comte d’Essex (1787) by Jacques Lescéne des Maisons.

COG’s concert performance of the opera comes to London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in June. Chinese-Australian conductor Dane Lam will direct the orchestra; he is principal conductor of China’s Xi’an Symphony Orchestra. On stage will be soprano Helena Dix as Queen Elizabeth I. This Australian-born singer is known as a bel canto specialist.

Both productions take place at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Tickets are available from the Southbank Centre



Martyn Brabbins conducts Chelsea Opera Group’s performance of Pizzetti’s opera Murder in the Cathedral.