UCL student opera performs Smetana UK premiere
7 March 2019
The British premiere of Smetana’s masterpiece, Libuše, will be performed by UCOpera (UCO), the student opera company of UCL.
Opening on 18 March for four performances only, it is the first UCO production at UCL’s Bloomsbury Theatre since it reopened following a specialist £19.8m refurbishment.
Smetana’s Libuše originally premiered at the opening of the National Theatre in Prague in 1881. It tells the story of Queen Libuše, who in Czech myth prophesised the founding of the city.
UCOpera’s production reimagines the Bohemian queen and her medieval court in a modern-day city, where Libuše has inherited her father’s firm and is queen of the corporate world. Libuše works tirelessly to expand the firm and prove herself, but soon begins to experience the loneliness of being a woman at the top.
The performance is sung in Czech with English surtitles. It is directed by Cecilia Stinton, an experienced opera director who is currently an AHRC-funded PhD candidate in History of Art at UCL. Cecilia has directed for Spectra Ensemble, Helios Collective, XOGA, Wagner 100 and Opera Holland Park, and assisted at British Youth Opera.
Award-winning conductor Charles Peebles takes on the musical direction for the production. With a repertoire featuring numerous operas, Charles has conducted many distinguished ensembles, including the BBC Singers, London Mozart Players and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Commenting on the production, Charles Peebles said: “Libuše is an unusual example of a very major work by a very major composer that, thus far, has only local recognition. The music is sublime, characteristic and spectacular. Little known but one of the greatest Czech operas.”
Frank Penter, Director of Operations at the Bloomsbury Theatre, said: “UCL Culture is delighted to welcome UCOpera to the Bloomsbury Theatre following our extensive renovation. UCOpera was the first production company to use the theatre when it first opened in 1968 so it is fitting that the production is happening so soon after our recent reopening. Student-led productions are at the heart of the Bloomsbury Theatre’s rejuvenated programme.”
The student cast with be joined by four exciting professional talents. The role of Libuše is played by New Zealand-British soprano Kristin Sharpin, whose recent operatic engagements include the title role in Beethoven’s Leonore for the Buxton Festival and Isolde in an adaptation of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde for the University of Oxford’s ‘Wagner 100’ conference.
Singing opposite Kristin in the role of Přemsyl is British baritone Robert Davies, a graduate of Guildhall School of Music and Drama who returns to sing with UCO for the second time. Robert has sung under the baton of eminent conductors including Sir Simon Rattle and Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Roles include Marcello in La Bohème, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro and Doctor Falke in Die Fledermaus on the Glyndebourne Festival Tour.
John Mackenzie sings the role of Lutobor. John has appeared in concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra and the John Wilson Orchestra. Opera roles have included Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Staatsoper Hannover and Germont in La Traviata at the Staatstheater Mainz.
Canadian-British Soprano Eve Daniell, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, sings Krasava. Eve has appeared as a soloist in the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms performing Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music and has performed leading operatic roles with Opera Holland Park, Pop Up Opera and the Amersham Festival.
A press night will be held on Monday 18 March 2019 at the Bloomsbury Theatre, with a pre-show talk and drinks reception.
UCOpera has been based at Theatre Royal Stratford East for three years during the Bloomsbury Theatre’s renovation. As part of a cutting-edge revamp, the 1960s Brutalist landmark building – famous for its innovative comedy, theatre, music and dance – has been expertly renovated and its 541-seat auditorium, stage and fly-tower has been upgraded.