Rhinegold David Edwards, director, and Philip Thomas, pianist in rehearsal with the cast of Hansel and Gretel

Rhinegold Publishing

Celebrating in song

2:04, 19th October 2017

As the UK celebrates Opera Passion Day, we look ahead to an event that focuses on the power of the human voice to move and inspire audiences

This weekend sees the launch of Celebrate Voice in Salisbury, an annual festival that puts singing in the spotlight across a range of of genres from opera, jazz, folk, music theatre and a cappella singing.

Opera lies at the heart of the Festival’s celebrations and this year’s programming at the beautiful 13th-century Medieval Hall in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close. This year sees a new production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, with it’s high-Romantic score that beguilingly blends catchy folk melodies with sumptuous Wagnerian harmonies.

Performances will be led by music director Phillip Thomas (familiar to ENO audiences and as an accompanist for Cardiff Singer of the World), who compresses Humperdinck’s extraordinary orchestral sound into a richly conceived piano version. The cast includes some of the finest singers in a new generation of British talent: Madeleine Shaw as the Witch, Julian Tovey (in his debut role as Peter), with Hansel and Gretel performed by Miranda Westcott and Claire Egan respectively. Rising Wagnerian star, Katie Lowe will make her debut in the role of Mother.

With a celebrated children’s chorus, the Festival has received acclaim for the quality of its casting in the unique setting of the 13th century Medieval Hall, which will this year be transformed into a woodland wonderland for the production. Phillip Thomas brings his inimitable orchestral sound to the piano accompaniment in a production directed by David Edwards, a former staff director at the Royal Opera House whose work with young opera companies is drawing increasing praise.

Lynsey Docherty, Celebrate Voice’s artistic director, who is also an opera singer, has added two operetta performances of Opera Della Luna’s critically acclaimed comedies The Tales of Offenbach to this year’s bill. Meanwhile while opera is brought to younger audiences via Matthew Sharp’s high octane performance of Tommy Foggo – Superhero, and English Pocket Opera will be encouraging youngsters to become opera heroes in their adventure, Opera Quest. In addition the first-rate cast for Hansel and Gretel perform a gala concert in ‘Celebrate Age’ for older people in the community who ordinarily would not have access to high profile concerts due to physical or financial restraints.

Docherty says of the festival, ‘Celebrate Voice has proven year on year that professional opera is sought after in the South West. We are dedicated to bringing new audiences to the art form, creating brilliant and accessible productions that capture the imagination of the audience and make them central to the action. And by training young people to be part of the productions alongside seasoned professionals, we provide access to families who may not have previous experience of the art form. The festival is privileged to have such a world class Music Director as Phillip Thomas at the helm, meaning we maintain a standard of excellence year on year, which is appreciated by seasoned opera fans and new audiences alike. Plus our participatory community performances create a tremendous sense of inclusion and celebration of opera, because people recognise true quality and the sense of sharing from our performers.’

The Festival boasts previous high profile performers as sopranos Susan Bullock and Rachael Nicholls in recital, with Dame Josephine Barstow as the Festival’s Patron.

Performance of Hansel & Gretel take place on October 21, 23, 25, 27, 29.

Tickets for this year’s festival are on sale via Salisbury Arts Centre 01722 321744 or online at www.celebratevoice.co.uk.

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