Red Earth Opera are presenting a semi-staged production of Bellini’s opera based on the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet, performed in English by professional soloists and accompanied by a chorus of amateur and semi-professional singers from across the region with a full orchestra
Red Earth Opera was founded by Jane Anderson Brown over ten years ago following a meeting where performers wanted to sing and play opera in Devon involving local musicians. The aim was to make opera accessible to the public at affordable prices.
Soloists are all professional or semi-professional singers, with a chorus drawn from several local choirs including both professional and amateur singers.
There is also a full orchestral accompaniment, not a common occurrence. Although originally founded localaly, soloists have been attracted from London, Somerset, Cornwall and Wales.
All Red Earth operas are sung in English, and have included Mozart’s “Idomeneo”, Gluck’s “Iphegenia in Taurus”, “La Clemenza di Tito” by Mozart, as well as lighter pieces such as Rossini’s “Cinderella” and Donizetti’s “The Love Potion”. Red Earth Opera have also given concerts to include popular selections from the works of Verdi, Bizet, Tchaikowsky, Gounod, Puccini and others.
They have performed in several Devon towns but this is a first for Totnes to witness such a work on such a scale. Red Earth are keen to emphasise this is an accessible performance that will appeal to anyone new to the genre as well as keen opera buffs.
Capulets and Montagues
Family feuds, gang rivalries, wars, and the plight of helpless individuals whose lives become entangled in these sorry affairs.. an ever repeating cycle that continues to reverberate through the ages.
Shakespeare used this familiar theme in his classic “Romeo and Juliet,” a story known to everyone, but there are many variations of the same story. In this instance Vicenzo Bellini drew on an old Italian source to rework his opera “I Capuleti e il Montecchi” which he wrote in 1830. The libretto by Felice Romani was a reworking of the story of Romeo and Juliet for an opera by Nicola Vaccai called Giulietta e Romeo and based on the play of the same name by Luigi Scevola which was written in 1818.
The story is centres around the two rival families, Montagues and Capulets and their supporters, and the ongoing vendetta between them. The music is stirring, much of it martial, yet parts are thought provoking and poignant, a surprise for some, maybe. It was described at the time as “an unclouded and immediate success” and has continued to be sung fairly frequently since.
The opera has been translated into English under the title of “The Capulets and the Montagues” and will be sung entirely in English by Red Earth Opera in Totnes on Saturday 28th October.
This production will be semi-staged, under the musical directorship of Jane Anderson Brown and directed by Anna Gregory, herself an accomplished soprano. You may spot some familiar Totnes faces, including, in the choir, Dr Emily Grossman who helped keep Totnes informed on the scientific facts during the covid crisis through the Totnes Pulse and there are several other local musicians in the orchestra.
The performance in Totnes is a St John Church Bridgetown, on Saturday October 28th at 7.30. Tickets are £15 and £12 for concessions and refreshments will be served.
A second perfromance will be in Chudleigh Parish Church the following evening.