Hardy novel opera premiere for Dorset Opera’s golden jubilee

DORSET Opera celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, with performances of one of the world’s best-loved operas and the premiere of an opera adapted from a favourite Thomas Hardy, with its roots firmly in Dorset. There will be seven performances of the two works at Bryanston School’s Coade Hall, Blandford Forum, from 22nd to 27th July.

The title role in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly will be sung by the Japanese soprano Eri Nakamura, who has recently sung the role at Covent Garden, with rising star tenor Jose Simerillo Romero as the callous Pinkerton. There will be four performances of Butterfly on the evenings of 22nd, 24th and 27th July, plus a 2pm matinee on Thursday 25th.

Paul Carr’s new opera, Under the Greenwood Tree, is based on Thomas Hardy’s much-loved early novel, which has the subtitle The Mellstock Quire. It is set in the village where Hardy was born. Unlike some of his famous later novels with their dark themes – Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Return of the Native, The Master Builder, Jude the Obscure – this is a bright and optimistic tale of likeable country folk and of the growing love between schoolmistress Fancy Day and farmer Dick Dew.

The story is set against the fate of the village’s traditional West Gallery choir, which is threatened by the march of modernism, in the shape of a church organ. This was a world that Hardy knew well, and he tells the story with real affection. It is an endearing tale and has been filmed and adapted for television and stage – now Dorset audiences can experience it in musical glory as an opera.

Carr’s melodies are tuneful and lyrical and the opera captures the essence of Hardy’s pastoral world, while bringing a fresh perspective to this timeless tale of love and tradition in the face of change. This will be a treat for opera enthusiasts and fans of Hardy’s literature alike.

The leading roles of Fancy Day, the schoolmistress, and her true love, Dick Dewy, will be sung by soprano Jamie Groote and baritone Felix Kemp. Under the Greenwood Tree will be performed on the evenings of Tuesday 23rd and Thursday 25th and the afternoon of Saturday 27th.

Pictured: Soprano Jamie Groote sings the role of Fancy Day, and baritone Felix Kemp will sing the leading male role of Dick Dewy.