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London opera festival all set to 'INSPIRE'

20 November 2009, London, UK

Yvonne Howard as Leonore in Opera Holland Park's 2003 production of Fidelio
Yvonne Howard as Leonore in Opera Holland Park's 2003 production of Fidelio

With five new productions slated for its 2010 summer season, London’s Opera Holland Park (OHP) is bucking the trend in UK festivals who are cutting down on their offerings next summer in light of  economic uncertainties. Six productions are planned in all next year, including the revival of the company's 2003 Fidelio.

Alongside the announcement of the new season,  the company has launched an ongoing audience development and community programme called the ‘INSPIRE Project’, featuring an extensive range of initiatives, including free and subsidised tickets to performances, free recitals in community centres, schools and hospitals, plus workshops, lectures and online learning resources. The intention, says OHP, is for INSPIRE to ‘encourage all members of the community to experience, discover and actively participate in opera and classical music’.

Opera Holland Park’s General Manger, Michael Volpe, explains: ‘We’ve already done a lot to make opera accessible to the widest possible audience, which as a public venture supported by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is one of our core founding principles. With INSPIRE we hope to go further, to prove that opera can have a huge impact, not just from the cultural enrichment perspective, but by showing how many people there are who react positively when they experience opera. It’s about individual aspiration and expression.’

Volpe is no less enthusiastic about the company’s programme for 2010, which he describes as ‘mouthwatering’, referring in particular to OHP’s first ever production of Riccardo Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini. This rarely performed C20th Italian melodrama, regarded by many as an underrated masterpiece, will feature Australian soprano, Cheryl Barker, making her role debut as Francesca as well as her first appearance with Opera Holland Park.

Other highlights for London’s opera lovers include Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, making its  OHP debut. Meanwhile, another Australian  soprano, Yvonne Howard (pictured), returns to the role of Leonore in Olivia Fuch's much admired production, described by Opera Now correspondent Roderic Dunnet as 'wise and unpretentious'.

Quizzed as to whether OHP has been affected by the general economic downturn over the past 18 months, Volpe is typically optimistic: ‘2009 was a good year for us, and although as a local authority we are always under financial pressure, we are pressing ahead with our desired programme for 2010 because our support-base remains strong.’

Visit the Opera Holland Park website for details of the 2010 repertoire

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