Live opera will return to London this August as Hampstead Garden Opera (HGO) stages a new production of Gustav Holst’s one-act opera Sāvitri (1916), the company has announced.

The socially distanced, open-air performances will take place in the gardens of Lauderdale House, Highgate Hill, in north London. Holst’s 35-minute opera is based on the Māhabhārata, a major Sanskrit epic of ancient India telling the story of the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War. HGO described the opera in a statement as: “A tale of life, death, illusion and hope powerfully resonant with our times.”

In the story, Sāvitri is told by Death that her husband Satyavān is about to die. When he returns from his work in the forest Satyavān collapses. Death offers Sāvitri a wish, and she asks for “Life”. Death agrees, but Sāvitri points out that her life is indivisible from that of her husband. Death has been tricked and admits defeat; Satyavān is saved.

Two full casts – including British soprano Lizzie Holmes and mezzo-soprano Joanna Harries sharing the part of Sāvitri and tenors Jack Roberts and Alex Aldren in the role of Satyavān – will alternate, allowing HGO to stage two performances per evening on 13, 15, 20 and 22 August. The shows begin at 6.30pm and 8pm.

Aldren is a trained doctor. Returning to the NHS to assist the Covid-19 crisis he has earned the title of ‘Dr Opera’ for his singing in the wards, and has made recordings to support Barts Hospital.

The production is directed by mezzo-soprano and theatre director Julia Mintzer. It will be conducted by HGO’s Music Director Thomas Payne.

Audiences are being asked to stick to strict social-distancing guidelines, with space allocated based on the size of each party and whether guests are bringing chairs or a picnic blanket to sit on. The show takes place on the Tea Lawn and Lauderdale House doesn’t supply seating. Every audience member will have their temperature checked on arrival. Tickets cost £12 and must be booked in advance from Lauderdale House.

HGO has also announced that the company’s autumn production of The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart, 1786) is now postponed to October 2021.



Hampstead Garden Opera’s new production of Holst’s Sāvitri will take place in the grounds of Lauderdale House in Highgate (Ignacio Crespo Valdez via Wikimedia Commons).