English Touring Opera (ETO) has revealed details of the cast for the touring company’s new production of Handel’s rarely performed ‘magic opera’ Amadigi (1715). The production marks ETO’s return to the stage after having to cancel live performances due to the Covid-19 health crisis. It will tour to venues across England throughout October and November.
The opera is based on Amadis de Grèce, a French tragédie-lyrique by André Cardinal Destouches and Antoine Houdar de la Motte. The eponymous hero, a prince of Gaul, is in love with Oriana, an English princess. However, the sorceress Melissa is infatuated with Amadigi. She has imprisoned Oriana in a tower and chains up the hapless Amadigi. After various deceptions, visions and trials, the two lovers, Amadigi and Oriana, are finally reunited when Orgando, Oriana’s uncle and a sorcerer , descends from the sky in a chariot and blesses their union.
Sharing the title role will be countertenors William Towers and Tim Morgan. The former most recently worked with ETO during the company’s digital season, singing in Liam Steel’s celebration of Josquin des Prez, Mille regretz (A Thousand Sorrows). Morgan sang the title role of Giulio Cesare (Handel, 1724) in James Conway’s 2020 production, and was also part of ETO’s 2020 tour of Bach’s St John Passion (1724).
Soprano Harriet Eyley joins the cast as Oriana, daughter of the King of the Fortunate Isles. She is a recent Welsh National Opera Associate Artist and this season also performs with Opera Holland Park and the Britten Sinfonia.
The role of Melissa will be shared by sopranos Francesca Chiejina and Jenny Stafford. Chiejina is a recent graduate of the Royal Opera House’s prestigious Jette Parker Young Artists Programme and recently starred opposite dancer Laura Caldow in Patricia Okenwa’s powerful staging of Elena Langer and Glyn Maxwell’s opera Ariadne (2002), while Stafford is a regular performer with ETO, recently singing Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte (Women Are Like That, 1790) and performing in St John Passion.
Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Afonwy-Jones takes the role of Dardano, the prince of Thrace. The prince is a former companion of Amadigi, but has become a rival for Oriana’s love. Afonwy-Jones has previously performed at Opera North, Scottish Opera and Grange Park Opera.
Finally, the role of Orgando, a sorcerer and Oriana’s uncle, will be taken by a young singer local to each venue.
Chiejina, Stafford, Afonwy-Jones and Eyley all performed in Focus on Amadigi, a week-long exploration of the opera that formed part of ETO’s digital season. Seven short films of performances of selected arias were released under the ETO at Home programme and are still available to watch for free on ETO’s website. The series also includes discussions with ETO artists and expert Handelians.
This new production features ETO’s period orchestra partner, the Old Street Band. It is conducted by Jonathan Peter Kenny, directed by James Conway and designed by Neil Irish with Rory Beaton and Harry Pizzey. It will tour to venues in London, Hexham, York, Poole, Great Malvern, Leamington Spa, Ulvaston, Tunbridge Wells, Snape and Exeter. Tickets are on sale now; see ETO’s website for details.
English Touring Opera has revealed the cast for its forthcoming new production of Handel’s Amadigi: William Towers, Tim Morgan, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, Francesca Chiejina, Jenny Stafford and Harriet Eyley.