Music For a Summer’s Evening

June 28, 2008

Please find the below the programme notes from the above concert.

Conductor  Richard Smith


Music for a Summer’s Evening
with an operatic theme


TellTale Opera

Saturday 28th June 2008
Wantage Parish Church, 7.30pm

Hilary Brennan    Soprano
Fiona Williams    Mezzo Soprano
Yuri Sabatini    Tenor
James McOran-Campbell    Bass-Baritone
Ben Woodward    Piano


Faust – Charles Gounod     (sung in English)
Soldier’s chorus
Avant de quitter ces lieux (Valentin)    James McOran-Campbell
Faites-lui mes âveux (Siebel)    Fiona Williams
Salut! Demeure chaste et pure (Faust)    Yuri Sabatini

Prince Igor – Alexander Borodin     (sung in English)
Polovtsian Dances

Carmen – Georges Bizet
Habanera (Carmen and chorus)    Fiona Williams
Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre
(Escamillo and chorus)    James McOran-Campbell
Je dis que rien ne m’epouvante (Micaela)    Hilary Brennan
C’est toi? C’est moi!
(Don Jose, Carmen and chorus)    Yuri Sabatini,
Fiona Williams


Alcina – George Frideric Handel
Tornami a vagheggiar (Morgana)    Hilary Brennan
Chorus of enchanted islanders (chorus)
Verdi prati (Ruggiero)    Fiona Williams

Dido and Aeneas – Henry Purcell
Dido’s lament (Dido)    Hilary Brennan
With drooping wings (chorus)

Magic Flute – Mozart     (sung in English)
Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja (Papageno)    James McOran-Campbell
Priests’ chorus (male chorus)
Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen
(Queen of the Night)    Hilary Brennan

Pagliacci – Ruggero Leoncavallo
Prologue (Tonio)    James McOran-Campbell
Bell chorus

Eugene Onegin –Tchaikovsky
Chorus of Peasant Girls

La Traviata – Giuseppe Verdi
De’ miei bollenti spiriti (Alfredo)    Yuri Sabatini
(Alfredo, Violetta and chorus)    Yuri Sabatini,
Hilary Brennan

Gounod – Faust

In this version of the legend, Faust is an ageing scholar, who believes his studies are worthless and that life and love have passed him by. After Mephistopheles tempts him with a vision of the beautiful Marguerite, he accepts the gift of youth from him.  Marguerite’s brother Valentin, who is going to war, entrusts his sister to the care of God  (Avant de quitter ces lieux) and to his friend Siebel, who also loves Marguerite and leaves a bouquet on her door step (Faites-lui mes avêux).

Faust,  having seen her walking home from church, praises her dwelling place (Salut! Demeure chaste et pure), whilst standing outside.  He woos her with a casket of jewels provided by Mephistopheles; she responds with the famous Jewel Song. They fall in love but, after making her pregnant, he deserts her.  When she goes to church to pray, Mephistopheles convinces her that she is doomed. The soldiers,  returning from war, sing of victory (Déposons les armes) but, when Valentin learns that Faust has debauched his sister, they fight and Faust kills him. When Marguerite is imprisoned for killing her child, Faust visits her and offers to help her escape. She refuses, but is rescued from the scaffold by a chorus of angels.

Prince Igor – Alexander Borodin

Prince Igor, which was incomplete on Borodin’s death and was completed by Rimsky Korsakov and Glazunov, is rarely performed outside Russia. The action of the opera relates to an incident in 1185 during a conflict between Russia and the Tartars.  Prince Igor is defeated and captured by Khan Konchak of the Polovtsi but manages to escape eventually.

The Polovtsian dances were completed by Borodin before his death.  They are much better known than the opera itself and are frequently performed in the choral version we sing tonight, or in an orchestral adaptation.  In the opera the dances are performed by the slave dancers of the Khan to entertain the captive Prince Igor.

Bizet – Carmen

At the start of the opera, set in Seville, Don Jose, a corporal in the dragoons is in love with Micaela, but their relationship is destroyed by the beautiful gypsy, Carmen. We are introduced to Carmen as she first attempts to entice Don Jose, singing the the Habanera.  Carmen persuades him to elope with her to the smugglers in the mountains. Carmen soon tires of Don Jose and directs her affections towards Escamillo, a bullfighter, who is introduced with the Toreador song (Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre).
With trepidation, asking for God’s support (Je dis, que rien ne m’épouvante), Micaela travels into the mountains in search of Don Jose.  She persuades him to return to Seville where his mother is ill.  Back in Seville, Escamillo is fighting in the bull ring.  Meanwhile Don Jose confronts Carmen (C’est toi? C’est moi!) and stabs her to death, when she rejects him, at the very moment Escamillo triumphs in the bullring.

Handel – Alcina

The beautiful sorceress, Alcina, entices heroes to a mid ocean island, transforming them into wild animals or inanimate objects when she tires of them. Her captives form a chorus of enchanted islanders who sing as her palace magically appears from the middle of a mountain . When Ruggiero is magically transported there, his lover, Bradamante, comes to rescue him, disguised as a man, Ricciardo.  The first person she meets is the sorceress Morgana, Alcina’s sister, who not only falls in love with ‘Ricciardo’, but believes that he loves her in return (Tornami a vagheggiar).  After many complications,  Ruggiero, realising that the island is a  magic sham (Verdi prati), destroys Alcina’s power with Bradamante’s aid..

Purcell – Dido and Aeneas

After the sack of Troy, the Trojan prince Aeneas escapes.  His ship is driven by storms to Carthage where he and Dido the Queen of Carthage fall in love.  Unfortunately the Gods have other plans for Aeneas, who is to found a new Troy in Italy (the future Rome).  Dido is distraught, when she learns that she is to lose Aeneas, and  dies after singing her lament (When I am laid in earth).  As the opera closes, the chorus sing a final lament over her lifeless body (With drooping wings)

Mozart – The Magic Flute

This, Mozart’s last opera, is superficially a fairy story but has serious undertones and references to freemasonry.  Sarastro, the priest of Isis and Osiris, has taken Pamina to the temple to release her from the influence of her mother, the Queen of the Night, who then persuades the prince Tamino to find her daughter and free her from Sarastro.  Tamino learns that Sarastro is not the evil being described by the Queen.  With the help of Papageno, who introduces himself with his aria (Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja – I am the birdcatcher), and after the priests pray to the gods (The priests chorus – O Isis und Osiris), Tamino  undergoes a series of ordeals in order to win Pamina.  When the Queen of the Night tries to persuade Pamina to kill Sarastro (Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinen Herzen), she refuses. At the end of the opera, Tamino and Pamina are united and the Queen of the Night is banished to eternal darkness.
Leoncavallo – Pagliacci

At the start of the opera, appearing through closed curtains, Tonio the clown, sings the prologue, in which he says that what the audience is about to see is not fiction but a true story.  He is part of a travelling troupe of actors who are to give a performance of their play that evening. In the Bell chorus, near the start of the opera , people make their way to vespers, in the carefree atmosphere of mid afternoon.. This contrasts with the tragic events which unfold later, when the jealousies within the troupe gradually emerge during the performance of the play and the audience realise they are no longer watching a play but a real tragedy.

Tchaikovsky – Eugene Onegin

The action of the opera unfolds over many years.  Tatyana, a young bookish woman, having fallen in love with the worldly Onegin, writes him a passsionate letter, which would have been considered scandalous in Russian society at the time. In the following scene, the Chorus of Peasant girls sing while they gather berries in the garden.  Tatyana and Onegin meet and he rejects her advances.  Years later, with Tatyana now a sophisticated married women, when they meet again, Onegin fails to recognise her at first, but eventually falls in love with her.  This time it is his turn to have his advances rejected as she steadfastly refuses to betray her husband

Verdi  – La traviata

The opera opens at a party in the house of a fashionable courtesan, Violetta.  In the Brindisi, Alfredo, who is in love with Violetta,  sings, alternating with the chorus,  a call to raise their glasses. Violetta then joins in.  Their love blossoms and they set up home together.  Three months later,  Alfredo sings of their love (De’ miei bollenti spiriti) but their happiness is shattered when he learns that Violetta’s reputation as a courtesan is preventing his sister’s marriage.  At the urging of Alfredo’s father, Violetta denies her love for him and leaves.  Too late, Alfredo realises the nature of Violetta’s sacrifice, but by now she is dying of consumption.

Fiona Williams

Fiona trained on English National Opera’s performance skills course, The Knack. She now trains with Arwel Morgan. Her credits include Carmen (Carmen), Third Lady, Second and Third Boy (The Magic Flute), Dorabella (Cosi fan tutte), Lucretia and Bianca (The Rape of Lucretia), Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), Ino (Semele), Mrs Peachum (Beggar’s Opera) and Second Witch (Dido and Aeneas). Fiona has also worked as a recitalist; spent three summers with the Opera Holland Park Chorus; appeared as a nun in BBC One’s Murphy’s Law; performed as alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah; recorded the background music for Terrence Rattigan’s The Browning Version at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre; and, formed part of Opera North’s Education team. Her forthcoming roles include Thisbe (Cenerentola) which she will be performing in November with TellTale Opera.

Hilary Brennan

Hilary Brennan trained on English National Opera’s performance course The Knack, after reading music at York University. Recent operatic work has included Vaughan Williams’ Pilgrim’s Progress (Philharmonia Voices), First Lady in Mozart’s Magic Flute (Armonico Opera), a UK tour of Purcell’s Fairy Queen (Armonico Opera), Adina in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’Amore (Vox Lirika), Susanna in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (Threestone Opera), Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (Armonico Opera), Alice (and cover of Countess) in Rossini’s The Count Ory (New Chamber Opera), and Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte (Opera Thrills).

Hilary has been privileged to work with a number of outstanding conductors, including a royal performance of Verdi’s Requiem under Riccardo Muti, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under Christoph von Dohnanyi at the opening concert of the newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall,  and Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 under Esa-Pekka Salonen. As well as her work on stage and on the concert platform, Hilary also appears at private functions as a member of the group Decoy Divas, and with her duo partner Melanie Lodge.

Last year, Hilary appeared in the Buskers’ Symphony, a series of short films shown as part of Channel 4’s Three Minute Wonders series; and was also to be heard on the soundtrack of Kenneth Branagh’s film of Mozart’s Magic Flute. Other television work includes Anne Boleyn’s lady-in-waiting (Days that Shook the World), a singing nun (Murphy’s Law) and an opera singer in Hampstead Heath – the Musical, all for the BBC.

In November this year, Hilary will play the role of Clorinda in Rossini’s La Cenerentola for Telltale Opera, and in summer 2009 will be appearing in J.C.Bach’s rarely performed opera Lucia Silla
Yuri Sabatini

Yuri Sabatini is an Italian tenor, from Rome. A gifted singer from a young age, he began his musical training at the age of 19, and has sung in many classical concerts and weddings throughout Italy. Yuri arrived in England in 2003, and is now based in London where he also teaches singing and is an Italian coach for opera singers. For the last year, he has been a student on the Birkbeck Opera Studies course.

This summer Yuri will be singing Smetana’s The Two Widows with Scottish Opera, and in November he will sing the principal role of Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore for Guildford Opera.

James McOran-Campbell

James trained for two years in Italy, then at the Guildhall and the National Opera Studio in London.

He made his national debut in the title role of Don Giovanni for Opera North, for whom he has also sung Count Almaviva The Marriage of Figaro and Pastore/Spirito in Orfeo.

Last year he appeared as Ormus Cama in the world première of The Ground Beneath Her Feet with the Hallé Orchestra under Mark Elder CBE.

His operatic experience includes engagements with many of the principal national companies.  For Welsh National Opera, Dandini in Cenerentola under Carlo Rizzi; for Grange Park Opera, the title role in The Barber of Seville, Belcore in The Elixir of Love, Bello in La Fanciulla del West and Hajny/Lovec in Rusalka; for ETO, Harashta The Cunning Little Vixen; for ENO, understudy in Britten’s Death in Venice; for Garsington Opera, understudy Guglielmo Cosí fan Tutte; for Garden Opera, Dr. Malatesta Don Pasquale, Marcello La Bohème and Guglielmo Cosí.

Recitals have included the song cycles Thoughts Unspoken, Earth and Air and Rain and Le Travail du Peintre (Crush Room, ROH), Winterreise and Liederkreis op.39 (Schubert Society) and Zarzuela in a televised concert in Spain. Also Fauré’s La Bonne Chanson in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Mozart’s Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall
Richard Smith (Conductor)

Richard was appointed conductor of the Wantage Choral Society in 2005. He started training choirs in earnest as an undergraduate at the University of Birmingham where he directed the University Chamber Choir. In 1995 he won an M.J. West Memorial Scholarship to study in Scandinavia and in 1998 he was awarded the Royal College of Organists’ John Brook Prize for Choir Directing. He took his postgraduate studies on the harpsichord with Lars Ulrik Mortensen in Munich, and later on the organ with Harald Vogel at the North German Organ Academy.

From 2001 to 2005 he was the organist at St Mary’s Church in Stoke D’Abernon, home of the famous Frobenius instrument, where he gave over forty concerts and established the professional choir. In 2005 he was appointed Director of Music at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Reading. He conducts a number of amateur and professional ensembles in the South East of England and is the director of The Liturgical Music Courses, a series of annual week-long courses for adults based in English cathedrals (www.liturgicalmusic.co.uk).

Ben Woodward

Ben Woodward is Director of Music at St John’s Church in Fulham.  He took up this post in January, having just returned from five years in New York, where he worked as organist, pianist, harpsichordist, coach and conductor.  In these various guises he was organist at Christ Church, Greenwich and St Mary’s Church in Stamford – where he lead an eight-voice professional operatic choir, repetiteur for the Greenwich Choral Society and the One World Symphony, and harpsichordist and music-editor for the New England Baroque Soloists.  With this latter group he has recently returned from a week at Williams College, Massachusetts, as visiting professor, playing the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto to critical acclaim.

Prior to his time in America, Ben was organ scholar at Trinity College Cambridge, including a term being Acting Director of Music, and prior to that he was a student at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.

Wantage Choral Society

The society, which this year celebrates its Diamond Jubilee, has a thriving membership. The choir rehearses each Tuesday evening from 19:30 – 21:30 in the Wantage Primary School, Newbury Street. For our autumn concert, on 28th November 2008 in the Parish Church, Wantage, we will be performing Hummel’s Mass in B flat.  Rehearsals for this start on September 9th .  New members are welcome with the only qualification being enthusiasm.  For further information, please call Pam Allen on 01235 766414 or see our website, http://www.wantagechoralsociety.co.uk. You may also contact us by e-mail at wantagechoralsociety@yahoo.co.uk.

Jenni Cosgrave, Anne Dalton, Denise Davies, Kath Gourlay, Catherine Harris, Vivienne Harrison, Rosemary Harwood, Flora Hobden, Shirley Lawrence,
Mary Mansell, Ali McLeod, Jane Moran, Shirley Northover, Ed Phillips,
Henrietta Rogers, Susie Smith, Dorothy Throp, Sue Turnbull, Vanessa Venning, Margaret Vivian, Eileen White, Sam Wolff, Donna Wood, Jane Yates

Prue Adams, Pam Allen, Jill Broadley, Joan Burkwood, Eileen Burzynska,
Anne Chambers, Kerry Collins, Meryl Finch, Pauline Herbert, Valerie Jones,
Mary Mills, Sarah Mitchell, Barbara Palmer, Olive Price, Tessa Smith, Gabi Tait, Dorrie Warren, Shirley Wetherill, Liz Wilson, Catherine Worth

David Eggleton, William Jackson, Dave Morris, Jim Nicholas, David Saunderson, Trevor Smith

John Barlow, Arthur Baston, John Deaton, Peter McGowan, Ian Miles, John Price, Malcolm Wetherill

The Programme was sponsored by the Royal Oak, Wantage……………..

Enjoy these Real Ales at
The Royal Oak, Wantage
after the Concert

After the West Berkshire Brewery had won the Best Beer award at the Wantage Beer Festival, Paul Hexter, Landlord of the Royal Oak, commissioned them to brew a speciality Ale for the Oak. The calls of regulars for their medicine from the Dr made the choice of name somewhat academic.

This fine, light, ale was originally brewed to celebrate the marriage of Paul and Frankie Hexter. Its thirst quenching formulation makes this an ideal summer drink, but don’t just take my word for it, try for yourself at the Royal Oak, Wantage after the concert.

CAMRA Pub of the year 2008. Congratulations for over a quarter of a century of providing superb quality ales!

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