Belcombe welcome for Iford Opera

IFORD Festival supporters are excitedly awaiting this year’s production of L’elisir d’amore, in the new setting of Belcombe Court at Bradford on Avon.

On 31st August, 3rd, 6th and 7th September, the grounds of rarely-open house will welcome the audience in a specially-created geodesic dome, providing seating for an audience of up to 240, as Oliver Gooch takes up the baton again for Iford Opera.

James Hurley’s production of Donizetti’s comic masterpiece is the perfect summer opera to launch Iford’s new setting, just a few miles from Iford Manor where the festival had its first 25 years.

Festival director Judy Egling­ton was determined to retain the spirit of Iford, at the same time as providing a more comfortable and spacious seating area and retaining the intimacy that always made Iford special.

The new production, sung in English, stars Claire Lees as the haughty Adina, Robert Lewis as the besotted Nemor­ino and Andrew Shore as the devious but char­ismatic Dr Dulcamara, with  Matthew Durkan as Belcore  and Iúnó Connolly as Gian­etta.

Bashful village boy Nemor­ino is transfixed by the wealthy Adina, but she has her eyes on better prospects. Then she falls for a handsome man in a uniform, leaving poor Nemorino in misery.  When the dazzling quack Dr Dulcamara turns up, offering a snake-oil love potion, our hero takes his chances.

The grounds of Belcombe Court, developed in the 18th Century in neo-classical “picturesque” style, surround the Grade 1 listed Georgian house and contain many original features – a grotto, rotunda and a ruined “temple” constructed during the same period as Stourhead. Four acres of landscaped gardens include lawns, an ornamental pond, box and yew topiary and fine specimen trees with views extending across the Avon valley.

Audiences can picnic in the grounds from 5.30. Perform­ances start at 7.30.

While the dome goes up at Bradford on Avon, Judy Eglington is in Stockwell, London, listening to the rehearsals.

“What is happening in Stockwell right now?  Go and stand outside St Stephen’s Church and amazing sounds will waft right out.

“Iford Arts is inside rehearsing L’elisir d’amore. I was transported. Our latest discovery, young tenor,  Robert Lewis, (in shorts),  was being conned by the sly and wily Dulcamara. Played completely in the round, the whole scene  encapsulated  the intimate comedy and drama for which we have become  renowned.

“Oliver  Gooch stood by in his stripey teeshirt, waving his  baton. James Hurley (who runs 10k a day in the course of directing the show) scuttled around tirelessly drawing every ounce of character and comedy from the duo on stage.

“There’s another fortnight of polishing before they arrive at Belcombe, the most stunning setting you can possibly imagine.

“Hope to see you there. I can’t wait!”

A handful of tickets is still available.If you would like to see Iford Opera in its new setting, for the first time, details are on the website, www.ifordarts.org.uk