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Vibrant and unconventional Gothic Opera returns to the stage this Halloween with their first-ever double bill, Le Loup-garou (The Werewolf) and Le dernier sorcier (The Last Sorcerer), which is taking place at the Round Chapel in Hackney, London, UK. United by their supernatural, fairytale-like themes and their subtly sinister but light-hearted character, this pair of operas will invite the audience into an intricately crafted world full of mysterious magical creatures.
Fresh from success in the Opera Production category at the Off-West End Awards (with their 2021 UK premiere of Gounod's La Nonne sanglante), Gothic Opera is continuing its mission to open opera up to new audiences and to inspire people to come and experience rarely-heard operas in atmospheric, evocative locations. This year's performance promises to shed new light upon the unjustly neglected work of the nineteenth-century female composers Louise Bertin and Pauline Viardot.
Gothic Opera is working with some of the brightest upcoming singers in London to bring these operas to life for the very first time in the UK. They will be joined by a predominantly female creative team, including stage directors Eleanor Burke, part of the Royal Opera House's Jette Parker 2022 intake, who will direct Le Loup-garou, and Edwina Strobl, who will direct Le dernier sorcier. The set and costume designer is award-winning Anna Kelsey; and the operas will be conducted by musical director Juliane Gallant, currently a member of Tapestry Opera's inaugural Women in Musical Leadership Fellowship.
Le Loup-garou was first performed at the Opéra Comique when the composer Louise Bertin was aged just twenty-two. An anonymous review at the time stated that the work was good 'for a woman'. Now, the opera is almost totally unknown and Bertin all but forgotten as a composer. The plot of Le Loup-garou tells of a werewolf, Albéric, whose identity is revealed, and whose lover Alice, despite her fear, cannot contain her love. Gothic Opera will perform with an arrangement for chamber orchestra written specifically for this production by up-and-coming composer Joshua Ballance. This will be the first original language performance in the world since the opera premiered in 1827.
Considerably better-known composer and singer Pauline Viardot wrote her 'salon' opera Le dernier sorcier in 1867 to a libretto by Ivan Turgenev. The perfect companion piece to Le Loup-garou, this darkly comic opera is described by director Edwina Strobl as 'the ultimate fairytale - a forest setting, a baddie who refuses to let go of power, a love story and a comic sidekick ... but this time the forest fights back'. It received its first public performance at the Court Theatre in Weimar in 1869. For this performance, Gothic Opera will use a chamber arrangement created by the US scholar Nicholas Žekulin.
Featuring newly-written dialogue – which brings the operas up to date while responding to the humour of the original – and with a stellar creative team and cast of brilliant, passionate musicians, Gothic Opera's 2022 Halloween production is set to achieve the highest artistic standards, opening these neglected works up to a wider public, and challenging audiences to experience something brand new this Halloween.
Posted 5 September 2022 by Alice Usher