Taking place from 11-20 August, this year’s Waterperry Opera Festival is the biggest ever, with eight productions, including revivals of some of the company’s critically acclaimed stagings and three brand new offerings.

The festival’s headline opera is a new version of Bizet’s Carmen. The production features an English-language translation by theatre director Christopher Cowell; it is directed by Anna Morrissey, with designs by Charlotte Henery, lighting by Ryan Day and sound by Will Thompson on behalf of Show Works.

In this bold new production, Carmen is a free-spirited woman who is determined to assert her own independence. She uses seduction to dominate the possessive men in her life, but one man’s dangerous infatuation spirals out of control, leading to murderous consequences.

The cast includes Welsh mezzo-soprano Samantha Price as Carmen, British tenor Xavier Hetherington as Don José, British baritone Matthew Durkan as Escamillo and Edinburgh-born soprano Catriona Hewitson as Micaela. Waterperry Opera Festival’s 2023 Young Artists will also perform. Festival music director Bertie Baigent conducts the Waterperry orchestra.

Performances take place on the front lawn at Waterperry House. The dates are 11, 12, 15, 17 and 19 August, with doors opening at 6.30pm.

Also new is a double-bill of two Baroque masterpieces: Handel’s Acis and Galatea (1739) and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1689). While very different, these two operas both tell stories of love.

In the former, the nymph Galatea and human shepherd Acis are in love. However, they are threatened by the violent jealousy of the monstrous Polyphemus. In the latter, Queen Dido struggles to hold onto power when the Trojan prince Aeneas proposes marriage and an alliance between their different factions. Ambition and treachery threaten to tear their nations apart.

The casts of both productions comprise some of the UK’s most outstanding upcoming operatic talent. Gloucestershire-born soprano Ellie Neate sings Galatea, with South African tenor Thando Mjandana as Acis. British baritone Jerome Knox takes the role of Polyphemus. Knox also sings Aeneas, with British-French mezzo-soprano Bernadette Johns as his queen.

Rebecca Meltzer directs Acis and Galatea, while Guy Withers takes the helm of Dido and Aeneas. Michael Papadopoulos conducts both productions. The show takes place in Waterperry’s amphitheatre. Performances are on 16, 18 and 20 August at 6.30pm.

The first revival of the season is Dove’s Mansfield Park (2011), based on the novel of the same name by Jane Austen. This period chamber opera tells the story of young Fanny Price who at the age of 10 was sent to live with her wealthy uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at the family estate Mansfield Park.

Scottish soprano ​Flora Macdonald sings the role of Fanny Price, with British bass-baritone Phil Wilcox and English mezzo-soprano Emily Gray as Sir and Lady Bertram, respectively. Flora’s cousins Edmund, Maria and Julia are played by British baritone ​Milo Harries, ​Gloucestershire-born soprano Ellie Neate and British mezzo-soprano Sarah Anne Champion. British tenor ​Robin Bailey is the caddish Henry Crawford.

This critically acclaimed production is directed by ​Rebecca Meltzer. Ashley Beauchamp is music director, with George Ireland as répétiteur. It will be staged in Waterperry House’s ballroom on 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16 August at 2pm. The production will also embark on a 10-day tour.

The final opera on the programme is a revival of Judith Weir’s King Harald’s Saga. It tells the story of the Norwegian invasion of England in 1066 led by King Harald, which ended in defeat at the battle of Stamford Bridge, 19 days before the successful Norman invasion at the Battle of Hastings.

This one-woman show, directed by Eleanor Burke, features British soprano Harriet Burns playing eight different characters, as well as the Norwegian army. Lasting just 20 minutes, there are two shows per day, at 3.30pm and 4.30pm, on 12 and 13 August, in Waterperry’s gardens.

Waterperry Opera Festival’s programme also includes two shows for children: Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Peter Rabbit’s Musical Adventure. The first uses music, dance and spoken word to tell the tales of Dahl’s ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs’, delving into the world of fairytales and adventure with two interactive family-friendly stories.

Taking place in the Waterperry amphitheatre, the production is directed by Lily Dyble, with musical direction by Aleksandra Myslek and designs by Caitlin Abbott. Performances are on 12, 13, 19 and 20 August at 11am.

Peter Rabbit sets Beatrix Potter’s words to music by Haydn. It offers a relaxed family-friendly experience interweaving music played by a classical string quartet and spoken word. Directed by Guy Withers, with Oskar McCarthy as the narrator, the production is staged in Waterperry’s garden glade, with performances at 1pm on 12, 13, 18 and 20 August.

Two further non-operatic events include a new contemporary dance staging of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Conducted by Tess Jackson and choreographed by Hubert Essakow, the production takes place in the Waterperry garden glade with young local musicians from Oxford County Youth Orchestra and dancers from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Performances are at 4pm on 18, 19 and 20 August.

And finally, the Waterperry Prom takes place at 6.30pm 13 August. This relaxed evening will showcase a collection of well-known classical pieces by Bizet, Mozart, Handel and others. Bertie Baigent conducts the Waterperry Opera Festival artists and orchestra, with Guy Withers, artist director and CEO of Waterperry Opera Festival, the host for the evening.

General ticket sales for all productions open on 17 April.



A new production of Bizet’s Carmen is the headline opera of this year’s Waterperry Opera Festival, taking place from 11-20 August.