Quest For The Best Opera Festivals By The Luxury Channel

We list some of the highlights of the Opera Season so that you can beat the ticket gold rush….

Opera 2010

Opera is the thinking man’s music festival of choice. Unlike its pop counterparts, attendees will not be expected to assemble ramshackle tents, douse themselves in cheap lager, and succumb to an inevitable bout of mud wrestling. Nonetheless, both AC/DC and Puccini fans will encounter an obstacle that is endemic to festival goers regardless of genre; the ticket gold rush. This year, those wishing to mingle with the European gentry should book early. To help you beat the crowds, The Luxury Channel has selected some of the very best opera experiences so that you don’t have to.

Savolinna Opera Festival

2nd July – 31st July 2010

Guests attending Finland’s premier opera festival could be forgiven for believing that they had taken ‘‘the second star to the right’’ and arrived as voyeurs in a fairytale. Rising elegantly from a beautiful lake are the medieval fortifications and rounded turrets of Olavinlinna Castle. The 15th century Swedish stronghold, which was built to fend off Russian cannon fire rather than dragons, is now besieged every summer by opera enthusiasts. This year, event organisers have announced plans to host the festival’s first international singing competition. This is not elevated karaoke for Nessun Dorma enthusiasts but a platform for gifted singers to showcase their supernatural-like talents.

Glyndebourne Festival

26th May – 29th August 2010

There are few places left in the UK which evoke that nostalgic sense of Englishness as conjured up in the chapters of Evelyn Waugh and E. M. Foster novels. Flawed though such sentiments may be, there is nothing more charming than witnessing men and women clad in evening dress whilst stretched out on picnic rugs beneath the shade of some stately home. This is exactly the kind of anachronistic yet splendid scene that one can expect at Glyndebourne. That the opera is also world-class is a bonus. There is a diverse programme this year that includes performances of Billy Budd, Macbeth and, of course, a Mozart favourite: Don Giovanni.

Wexford Opera Festival

16th October – 30th October 2010

Ireland was not traditionally counted among the great operatic seats of Western Europe – until now, that is. In 1950, Sir Compton Mackenzie – the esteemed writer and journalist – gave a lecture to the Wexford Opera Theatre Circle in which he remarked upon how their hall’s dimensions were favourable to the staging of opera. He was probably oblivious of the effects that his words would have on his impressionable audience. Nearly sixty years later, Wexford has become a leading light of Europe’s opera season, particularly since it specialises in the production of compositional rarities.

Choregies D’Orange

15th July – 6th August 2010

This is the oldest festival in France and almost certainly the oldest festival on the present list. Established in 1860, its age almost pales into insignificance when we consider the setting itself. The venue, which lies to the north-west of Marseilles, is located on the exact site of an ancient Roman amphitheatre. Although it has long been stripped of its white marble, the skeleton of the theatre has somehow survived intact. As a result, the acoustics are nothing short of superb. What could be more stirring than taking your pew among the 9000 strong crowd in the knowledge that you are part of an antique tradition?

Drottningholm Opera Festival

30th May – 14th August 2010

It was within the very walls of this illustrious opera house that Gustav III was shot dead while attending a masquerade ball. He was cornered by his assassins and betrayed with the words ‘‘Bonjour, beau masque’’ (Good day, fine mask). It might lack the fame of ‘‘Et tu, Brute’’ but the phrase still holds a certain resonance. Sadly, the act proved to be a curse for the venue, which was all but forgotten after the untimely death of the nation’s sovereign. Thank heavens therefore that in more recent years, patrons have recognised Drottingholm’s place in Europe’s cultural heritage, devoting the site to the performance of 17th and 18th century opera.

Les Azuriales

17th August – 29th August 2010

Founded in 1997, Les Azuriales is the young upstart of the operatic calendar but overlook it at your peril. With only 200 guests, this family-run festival offers unquestionably the most intimate opera experience. Located in the delightful Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, the event has been likened to an 18th century soiree. Singers and musicians are known to join audience members after a performance for an al fresco dinner on the lawn.

Terme Di Caracalla, Teatro dell’Opera

1st July – 6th July 2010

The nefarious Emperor Caracalla arguably made two great philanthropic acts during his six year tyranny. The first was to grant Roman citizenship to all freemen throughout the empire. The second was to sanction the creation of a cavernous thermae, the remains of which are still standing today. Every summer, the Teatro dell’Opera decamps to these majestic ruins to deliver an operatic experience that can only be described as unforgettable. In July, the Roman baths will host performances of Romeo and Gulietta.

Bregenz Summer Festival

22nd July – 22nd August 2010

Everyone is aware of Vienna’s and Salzburg’s significance as Austrian paradigms of the operatic ideal but the rest of the country is equally rich with musical treasures. At Bregenz Festival, The Lake Stage – as its name would suggest – is erected on stilts over a lake, delivering productions of such opulence that they run for two years. Ironically, Verdi’s ‘‘desert’’ opera, Aida, will be headlining the floating stage on Lake Constance; no doubt it will be a feast for the eyes.

Santa Fe Opera House

2nd July – 28th August 2010

Visiting Santa Fe’s Opera House is the opera fanatic’s equivalent of embarking on a distant pilgrimage. Located on a former guest ranch, every year thousands flock to this shrine of musical enlightenment. Established by John Crosby in 1956 as a centre for budding singers, Santa Fe now plays host to a diverse repertoire of performances. This year, the event features the world premiere of Spratlan, Life Is A Dream.

Rossini Opera Festival

9th August – 22nd August 2010

Often referred to simply as the Persaro Festival owing to its location, this event is dedicated solely to the performance of the operas of Rossini. The Italian composer was so prolific during his creative life that there is little danger of the festival ever growing repetitive. The festival was originally established to promote some of Rossini’s lesser-known works but, as a result, many of these have now entered the standard operatic repertoire.