English Touring Opera (ETO) has announced its return to the stage with a UK tour of Handel’s Amadigi (1715) from October. This marks the company’s first live performances since November 2020.
Handel’s rarely performed ‘magic opera’ is based on the medieval epic Amadis de Gaula, a French tragédie-lyrique opera by André Cardinal Destouches which explores the powerlessness of young people in the face of all-consuming, youthful love. It was written by Handel during his stay at Burlington House, in Mayfair, London.
The new production is led by director James Conway and conductor Jonathan Peter Kenny, the team responsible for ETO’s celebrated Handel productions Giulio Cesare (1724) in 2017 and 2020, Xerxes (1738) in 2016 and 2009’s Handelfest, a hugely successful and unprecedented undertaking of performing five different Handel operas over five consecutive nights.
Rehearsals for the production started in April. ETO has released a series of films of seven arias from the opera captured during practice sessions at Stone Nest, a performance space in London’s West End.
Featuring several singers who will also take part in the tour, with musical accompaniment from the Old Street Band, the Focus on Amadigi series will give audiences a taste of the music they will hear in theatres this autumn. Jonathan Peter Kenny conducts ETO’s resident period orchestra. Alongside the performances, viewers can hear ETO artists and expert Handelians discuss the music in pre- and post-show conversations.
The first aria to feature in the film is ‘Io godo, scherzo e rido’ (‘I Laugh to See Your Sorrow’), with lyric soprano Jenny Stafford. A pre-performance talk features director James Conway in discussion with the reunited cast of his acclaimed 1996 production of Amadigi. Next is ‘Ah! Spietato, e non ti muove?’ (‘Ruthless Man! Are You Not Moved?), with soprano Francesca Chiejina.
‘Sussurrate, onde vezzose’ (‘Whisper, Gentle Waves’), with countertenor James Laing, follows, while the ‘Sinfonia’ and ‘Tu mia speranza’ (You My Hope) features the Old Street Band without a vocalist. Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Afonwy-Jones sings ‘Pena tiranna io sento al core’ (‘My Heart is all Pain’).
James Laing returns to perform ‘Non sa temere questo il mio petto’ (‘My Spirit is Fearless’), followed by soprano Harriet Eyley singing ‘S’estinto e l’idol mio’ (‘If my Beloved is Lifeless’). The final piece is ‘Destero dall’empia Dite’ (‘Furies, Rise and Fight Them’), performed by Jenny Stafford. James Conway is joined in discussion by Jonathan Keates, author of Handel: The Man and His Music.
English Touring Opera and the Old Street Band in rehearsals for Handel’s Amadigi at Stone Nest, London, which will go on tour in autumn (Andreas Grieger).