1. Oxford Beethoven Festival
It’s Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020 and the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra is celebrating with a year-long festival that will see them playing all the Beethoven symphonies, concertos, violin sonatas, cello sonatas and piano sonatas, as well as the Mass in C and a concert performance of Fidelio. They’re not the only ones, though – Garsington Opera weighs in with a revival of its 2009 production of Fidelio, and there are more Beethoven delights to come from Oxford Bach Choir, Oxford Chamber Music Festival and others. For Beethoven fans, 2020 is party time!
2. Oxford Lieder
Always a highlight of the year, the Oxford Lieder Festival returns in October with another exciting song fest that will once again take over the city. This year’s theme, Connections Across Time: A Brief History of Song, celebrates music and poetry from the Baroque to the Enlightenment to the present day. The festival runs from 9th-24th October. But Oxford Lieder isn’t just about the main festival these days – there’s also the Song at Wolfson series, which showcases young singers, and the newly-expanded Spring Song festival, which runs from 27th March to 4th April and includes the festival’s residential mastercourse as well as evening concerts by established and emerging artists.
3. English Music Festival
Another very special annual event, the English Music Festival returns to Dorchester Abbey in May with its customary showcase of music, both familiar and unfamiliar, by some of this country’s finest composers. Founded by Em Marshall-Luck in 2006, the festival is a unique champion for neglected English music. The programme and dates for the 2020 festival will be announced on the EMF website in January.
4. Garsington Opera
Okay, so Garsington Opera’s new home at Wormsley is just across the Oxfordshire border, but the company started in Oxfordshire and still feels like an Oxfordshire company. Now into its 31st season, Garsington’s repertoire for 2020 includes Verdi’s rarely-performed comedy Un giorno di regno, Dvorak’s popular fairytale opera Rusalka, an early Mozart opera, Mitridate, re di Ponto and, of course, that Fidelio revival. The season runs from 28th May to 18th July. Get those picnic hampers at the ready!
5. Bampton Classical Opera
Founders Jeremy Gray and Gilly French have once again delved into the operatic archives, this time unearthing Gluck’s little-known gem Paris and Helen. In a break with tradition, the company moves away from the famous Deanery Garden this year to take up residence at The Grange in central Bampton. Performances take place on 17th-18th July, followed by the customary visits to The Orangery Theatre, Westonbirt School (31st August) and St John’s Smith Square, London (18thSeptember). Making her Bampton debut in 2020 is conductor Karin Hendrickson, currently Assistant Conductor to the Royal Northern Sinfonia.