Dorset Opera Festival, Le Carrose du Saint-Sacrement, Lord Berners
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The Dorset Opera Festival expands its programme to three productions this year. Its annual festival again features an international line-up of opera stars in the stately surroundings of Bryanston's glorious 400 acres near Blandford Forum in the heart of Dorset.
Acclaimed mezzo-soprano-turned-director Sally Burgess takes the helm of Verdi's Il trovatore, and Paul Carr directs a double-bill of one-act operas: Puccini's tragedy Suor Angelica and the UK premiere of eccentric polymath Lord Berners' comedy Le carrosse du Saint-Sacrement.
Based on the same play by Prosper Mérimée as Offenbach's LaPérichole, LE CARROSSE DU SAINT-SACREMENT was composed by the English polymath Lord Berners. Berners - who was William Walton’s patron and one of the most idiosyncratic and fascinating personalities in British music - was notorious for his eccentricity, dyeing pigeons at his Faringdon house in vibrant colours and at one point having a giraffe as a pet. His Rolls-Royce contained a small clavichord which could be stored beneath the front seat. He appears in many books and biographies of the period, notably portrayed as Lord Merlin in Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. He was a friend of the Mitford family and close to Diana Guinness.
His one-act comic opera is set in the Peruvian capital of Lima and tells the story of a Viceroy who rashly gives his mistress an extravagantly luxurious new carriage, with unexpected consequences. Berners supplies a wonderfully atmospheric score filled with typically South American colours, sounds and rhythms. Its 1924 premiere in Paris was extremely well received. Immediate plans for a London transfer failed, Berners moved on to ballet and then film scores, and 90 years later his only opera finally receives its UK premiere, using Adam Pollock's 1983 English libretto translated from its original French. It is directed by Paul Carr and conducted by St Gallen's Jeremy Carnall, who is also music director of Dorset Opera.
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