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Waterperry Opera Festival 2019

A unique and innovative opera festival hosted at the beautiful Waterperry House & Gardens in Oxfordshire
Waterperry Gardens, Nr. Wheatley, Oxon OX33 1JZ, Thu 25 July - Sun 28 July 2019

Enjoy a charming and affordable series of opera works in the lovely grounds of Waterperry Gardens this summer. The festival includes Dove's adaptation of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Mozart's classic The Magic Flute and Peter Rabbit's Musical Adventure, a lunchtime show for families.

The festival offers accessible and socially relevant productions, created and performed by a diverse community of artists, which bridge the gap between performer and spectator. Waterperry want opera to be available and affordable to as many people as possible. As a charity, they endeavour to inspire more to take part in art, music and theatre.

They aim to make their work accessible by producing operas in the English language, wherever possible, and making tickets affordable to the general public including offering lower prices to students, unwaged and disabled persons. They also work hard to make their performances socially relevant and meaningful to today's audiences.

To bridge the gap between performer and spectator, Waterperry offer intimate and immersive productions, and participatory events designed to inspire audiences and demonstrate the creative process through talks, masterclasses and workshops.

July 26, 2019
Magical and mirthful

The Magic Flute, Waterperry Gardens, Thursday 25th July 2019

I’m no opera aficionado, but I now have affection for the Waterperry Opera Festival. The first (and last) opera I saw was in London. It was worthy but also bone-shakingly dull. Last night’s performance of The Magic Flute was a delight - amusing, accessible and a great deal of fun.

Waterperry Gardens provides the most magical setting for a performance. Bursting with life, neat but not regimented, the whole place is stunning. The actual show was staged in the grand stone amphitheatre, discovered through a widening garden path. The amphitheatre both lent the show a classical feel and also provided surprisingly good acoustics for an unplugged outdoors event. Waterprerry Gardens even provided cushions to spare one’s delicate bottom – classy!

The show itself was equally delightful. A helpful synopsis is provided in the programme, narrating a somewhat nonsensical story involving enchanted instruments, quasi-magical children, a vague conflict between factions and, of course, lots of love. Really, however, the show was not about the story, and all about the characters and the music.

A delightful cast of individuals were brought to life by our young and talented performers. Particularly charming was the hapless Papageno (Nicholas Morton), whose slightly silly, but not hammy, style immediately endeared him to everyone. Our lead Tamino (John Porter) of course put forth with a full and rich voice, and special mention should go to our Queen of the Night (Eleanor Penfold) for delivering her tricky signature song (which even I recognised) flawlessly.

Sung and spoken in modern English to a surprisingly funny translation by Jeremy Sams, the performance felt modern and accessible. I even laughed, actually laughed, out loud at some of the quips and lines. Not at all what I was expecting from Mozart.

A whole 90 minutes were given way to the interval, and guests are encouraged to bring a picnic to share in the wondrous grounds. I really can’t overstate how much this added to the whole experience. The weather was clement, the gardens enchanting and the whole thing was just so ridiculously civilised I would not have been surprised to see Mr Darcy walk by. Towards the end of the interval, patrons were summoned back from their leisurely picnic by a polite trail of trumpets. So, so classy.

Yet despite the outrageously high civilisation quotient, nothing felt aloof or exclusive. I am by no means an opera-and-stately-homes sort of guy, and not once did I feel uncomfortable or out of place. I think this comes down to the playful air which Laura Attridge’s direction lent the performance.

The combination of setting, performance and direction made the whole event a truly magical experience. We plant to buy tickets next year as a special present for others. You might consider buying them as a present for yourself.

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