English Touring Opera (ETO) is hosting a series of productions on its online ETO at Home platform this year. The programme consists of four new productions and broadcasts of two previous events, all of which will be free to view.
The first new production is ETO’s new site-specific staging of 14th-century French poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut’s motet (a mainly vocal musical composition) How can I forget? (Comment oublieray). Featuring four male singers and harp, the piece provides an introduction to a world of courtly love, dubious salvation and a yearning for peace – all in the context of our own situation. The production is available to watch now.
In Mille regretz (A Thousand Sorrows), Liam Steel and Jonathan Peter Kenny stage a very unusual presentation of the work of Josquin des Prez, marking the 500th anniversary of the French Renaissance composer’s death. Featuring five singers and five players, this new production includes the title chanson (a lyric-driven French song) and ranges from the celestial descending figures of Josquin’s motet Inviolata to the outright raunchiness of his Allegez-moi, an invitation to explore intimate regions of the flesh. Mille regretz is also available to stream on demand now.
Shostakovich’s Michelangelo Suite, a song-cycle for bass voice and piano, sets the poetry of Renaissance Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet Michelangelo. English bass Edward Hawkins and Russian pianist Sergey Rybin are directed by ETO General Director James Conway for this new production. The performance can be viewed from 11 June.
The final new piece is Elena Langer’s opera Ariadne (2002), with a libretto by British poet Glyn Maxwell. In this short opera, Ariadne is alone, abandoned by Theseus, and for the moment filled with an awareness of absence. Yet absence is defined by love – terrible and beautiful at the same time. The production is directed by choreographer Patricia Okenwa, Ariadne is played by Nigerian-American soprano Francesca Chiejina, with oboist Nicholas Daniel. It will be streaming from 2 July
Also streaming for free is a 2018 triple bill featuring Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas (1689), Carissimi’s oratorio Jonas and Gesualdo’s I will not speak, a collection of madrigals and music. These archive films of dress rehearsals were not intended for a public viewing, but ETO stated “in this year of silence in theatres the performers wanted us to share them with you”.
The first is the most well known and stars soprano Sky Ingram as Dido. Members of the Old Street Band are conducted by Jonathan Peter Kenny. This is available now. Jonas can be viewed from 28 May, while I will not speak will be streamed from 18 June.
The final piece is a free broadcast of ETO’s 2020 production of Bach’s St John Passion. James Conway’s staging brought together professional soloists and the Old Street Band with singers from the Collegium Musicum of London Chamber Choir, Hackney Singers, Hackney Choral and London Youth Boys’ Choir for a distinctive reimagined performance of St John Passion.
Shot at Hackney Empire on 5 March 2020, the film weaves together performance footage with 90 individual video contributions made by choir members in isolation from Cumbria to Cornwall. The broadcast is accompanied by a new documentary that reunites the production’s cast to explore their experiences during the past year of lockdown, and is preceded by a pre-concert discussion with James Conway and conductor Jonathan Peter Kenny.
A free broadcast of English Touring Opera’s 2020 production of Bach’s St John Passion will be available as part of the company’s ETO at Home online offerings this summer.