There are few places better for summer fun than Central London. The range of beautiful parks and outdoor spaces and a vibrant, engaged, diverse populace mean you can barely take the dog for an evening walk without stumbling on a festival or gig.
But what if your tastes are more Glyndebourne than Glasto? Or you have guests who’d rather sit and sip Prosecco than hurl themselves into a mosh pit? We check out a more sophisticated way for Londoners to enjoy music in the park this summer.
The long-standing outdoor theatre in front of historic, ruined Holland House in West London’s Holland Park presents an impressive bill of world-class opera each summer, with divas only occasionally upstaged by the park’s resident peacocks. The organisers know how to look after their outdoor patrons, and there’s a marquee in case of rain and even an alfresco dining area.
The 2015 season is already underway, with an adventurous programme from 2 June until 1 August. First up was Puccini’s collection of one act operas, Il trittico. Well regarded but ambitious to stage, it’s impressed the critics. New work is always a bit of a gamble with traditional audiences, but Jonathan Dove’s 1998, English-language opera Flight, set in an airport departure lounge, also received great reviews.
Verdi’s popular Aida, a mainstay of the operatic repertoire, is also quite tricky to stage, and reviews suggest while it sounds great, the bold new visual treatment on offer here is not to all tastes, so it may be one for the inveterate opera buff. If that’s you, it’s on throughout July. If you’re just looking for a bucolic idyll in the middle of the city, a rare staging of Delibes’ Lakmé, famous for its ‘Flower Duet’ might be a better bet, with dates from 9 July.
Opera Holland Park‘s production of Montemezzi’s L’Amore Dei Tre Re was rapturously received in 2007. Its riveting, non-stop 90-minutes (no interval) of drama, passion and gore are back from 22 July. If you’re a mixed party of opera connoisseurs and adventurous novices, this might be the one for you.
Another popular favourite back this year is Will Todd’s 2013 short opera Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in a promenade performance on the nearby Yucca Lawn. Specially commissioned for Holland Park, it’s been called ‘Punchdrunk for kids’ and is headed for the Royal Opera House this November. If you’re looking for a way to keep some youngsters amused while not being driven mad yourself, or simply don’t want to miss out, performances start from 19 July.
What are your experiences of opera in the open air?