Iford Arts is set to host a programme of outdoor concerts in the stunning 18th-century grounds of Belcombe Court, the Wiltshire-based production company’s home in Bradford-on Avon.
Rarely open to the public, Belcombe Court is a Grade 1 listed house set in 60 acres of formal gardens, parkland and woodland. The summer season will take full advantage of the setting for a weekend of – socially distanced if applicable – open-air events taking place in August, followed by the company’s first-ever presentation of ‘Cav and Pag’.
Kicking off the launch weekend is an evening picnic prom on 21 August. Music will be provided by Classico Latino, a group that fuses the passion and vitality of authentic Latin music with the smooth sound and virtuosity of the classical tradition. More acts are yet to be announced.
Iford Arts described the prom as: “The perfect way to while away a summer evening with picnics shared with friends, whilst enjoying the spectacular gardens and grounds of Belcombe Court.”
The next day is aimed at families and children, as well as the young at heart. The award-winning orchestra Orpheus Sinfonia, made up of the UK’s most promising young musicians, presents two performances of Prokofiev’s symphonic fairytale for children, Peter and the Wolf (1936) on 22 August. Iford’s new Artistic Director Oliver Gooch will conduct the production.
Written for a children’s theatre in Moscow, this enduring musical story is based on an original narration by the composer. Come and meet Peter, his grandfather, the hunters, the villainous wolf and a whole menagerie of animals, with each character in the story represented by a different instrument and sound.
The performance, complete with narrator, will include a fully interactive introduction to the instruments of the orchestra. It is a perfect opportunity for younger members of the family to enjoy the world of classical music – and there will be a few surprises on the way, Iford Arts has promised.
The following weekend sees Iford Arts’ first production of what the company describes as “perhaps the most famous operatic double-bill of all time”. ‘Cav and Pag’ is comprised of Mascgani’s one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry, 1890) and the two-act Pagliacci by Leoncavallo (Clowns, 1892), which have often been staged together since 1893.
The evening will begin with MezzoCav, a concert presentation of a selection of pieces from ‘Cav’. In addition to the famous ‘Intermezzo’, international British soprano Susan Bullock will lead the cast and chorus in the most well-known parts of the opera, including the uplifting ‘Easter Hymn’.
“I am very much looking forward to working with Iford Arts this summer,” Bullock commented. “After such a terrible year of cancelled performances for our profession, it will be wonderful and very exciting to be able to help to launch a fresh start with such a forward-thinking company.”
Produced in partnership with Opera Ensemble and directed by theatre director Christopher Luscombe, Pagliacci tells the fatal story of a troupe of actors, whose performance is overtaken by real-life jealousy and revenge. Soprano Elin Pritchard stars as Nedda, and the cast includes Peter Auty, Robert Hayward, Nicholas Lester and Aled Hall.
Luscombe said: “Our production of Pagliacci came about because we were all determined to put on a show in lockdown. That passion for music and drama found its perfect expression in the explosive brilliance of Leoncavallo’s timeless score, and we’ve loved taking it to socially distanced audiences who’ve been starved of live theatre. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to bring it to the West Country in the summer, and to have another chance to revel in this astonishing display of operatic magic.”
Tickets for the prom are £39. Those for Peter and the Wolf cost from £9 for children and £16 for adults. Tickets for the opera are from £49, with under 18s free at some performances. See Iford Arts website for details.
Set in the environs of Grade 1 listed Belcombe Court, an evening picnic prom launches Iford Arts’ summer season.