Hannah Pedley

There will be magic in the air when Oxford Opera bounces back this autumn with a special gala to help to fund next year’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. 

Tickets are on sale now for A Night at the Opera – Making Magic, which takes place at the Oxford Playhouse on November 7. The event will mark the company’s triumphant return to the stage following the pandemic, as well as celebrating the glorious world of opera.

“book your tickets and help to create some opera magic!”

“It’s essentially going to be an opera Top of the Pops,” says Stuart Pendred, who founded Oxford Opera in 2018.

“We’re using it as a relaunch, really, to say we’re back, we’ve just about survived, and to keep opera alive in Oxford.

The two 80-minute performances, both without interval, will feature operatic favourites by Mozart, Bizet and Puccini, amongst others. 

The soloists are South African soprano Caroline Modiba, mezzo Hannah Pedley (who sang the title role in Oxford Opera’s Carmen two years ago), tenor Anthony Flaum (who will be singing Tamino in next year’s The Magic Flute), baritone Felix Kemp (due to sing Papageno in The Magic Flute) and Stuart himself, a bass baritone. 

Anthony Flaum

Stuart is also hoping that legendary British soprano Susan Bullock CBE – who has sung with English National Opera, Royal Opera, Metropolitan Opera and at the BBC Last Night of the Proms, among others, and is one of Oxford Opera’s patrons – might also feature.  

“It depends on her schedule, but if she’s free we’re hoping she will come and sing,” he says. “And that will be a huge coup for us.”

The soloists will be joined by the Oxford Opera Children’s Chorus.

Felix Kemp by Eivind Hansen

The occasion also marks the launch of the Oxford Opera Orchestra, to be conducted by John Warner, which will be onstage with the singers.

Despite the setbacks of the last 18 months, Stuart is enthusiastic and optimistic about the company’s future. The next main production, of course, is The Magic Flute, which takes place on April 1-3 at the Oxford Playhouse.

Hannah Pedley

“We were going to do Flute in June of this year, but I didn’t want to be clashing with Waterperry, Longborough and Garsington,” Stuart says. “I don’t want to become another summer festival. It’s not what I think we should be doing. We should be providing for the city. So in a strange way I’m pleased it was postponed.

“It will be the same model as we did for La Boheme and Carmen – three full performances and a mini matinee. We were really encouraged by the response to that model – clearly there is an appetite for it within Oxford. 

“I want to work locally as well. We’re Oxford Opera Company, so it’s a big thing for me as the founder and director of the company that it’s not about elitism, it’s about collaboration, it’s about the power of music.”

Stuart is also committed to working with children in local schools, something that has been at the heart of Oxford Opera since its formation.

“I want to commission a children’s opera but it’s probably a couple of years down the line. It’s about empowering the kids and working with them.”

Also coming up on November 23-24 this year, at the Holywell Music Room, is a double bill of Lili Boulanger’s Faust et Hélène and the UK premiere of Karen Spiegel’s The Hat: Arendt Meets Heidegger, to be directed by Cecilia Stinton, who was recently assistant director for Garsington Opera’s Eugene Onegin. 

The Hat, which premiered in Chicago in April 2019, imagines the meeting between the 20th century German philosophers Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger, who had a four-year affair, from 1924-28, despite the fact that Arendt was Jewish and Heidegger a member of the Nazi Party. 

Stuart Pendred of Oxford Opera

The production will feature soprano Katie Blackwell as Hannah and Stuart as Martin, with John Warner conducting. 

Looking further ahead, Stuart has ambitions to do The Ring cycle. First, though, there’s that opera gala coming up in November – so book your tickets and help to create some opera magic!

A Night at the Opera – Making Magic is at the Oxford Playhouse on 7th November, 3pm and 7pm. Details and ticketswww.oxfordplayhouse.com/events/a-night-at-the-opera-making-magic

For more information about Oxford Opera, visit https://oxfordopera.uk

NICOLA LISLE