Durham Festival of the Arts 2016

festivalThe second Durham Festival of the Arts, a joint venture between the university’s music and drama societies begins next week, with a Shakespeare extravaganza in Durham Cathedral. This gala concert combines orchestral and choral music inspired by Shakespeare, including Prokofiev’s Montagues and Capulets, Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and music from Kiss Me, Kate, with excerpts from the plays performed by Durham Student Theatre.

You can find details of some of the other musical events in the festival via the menu at the top. I’m particularly looking forward to Orchestra Cipriani’s concert in the magnificent Victorian theatre at Ushaw College. The orchestra is run and conducted by Lewis Wilkinson, and I particularly enjoyed their debut concert last autumn. The orchestra’s concerts showcase lesser-known British music alongside the greatest European composers, so this one has Beethoven’s music for Egmont alongside the modern première of a piano concerto by Stanford, and in the unknown-composer category, the Wood Nymphs Overture by Sterndale Bennett. The Egmont music sounds particularly intriguing – rather than just the famous overture, the orchestra perform the complete music, in Beethoven’s version for soprano solo and narrator to give us the full story.

Durham University Chamber Choir are always worth hearing, and as is traditional, they close their year with a concert in Durham Cathedral – this year, they commemorate the Battle of the Somme centenary with Duruflé’s Requiem and Lo the Full Final Sacrifice by Finzi.

I have to confess that Mansfield Park is my least-favourite Jane Austen novel, but I’m prepared to overlook my dislike of the book to see it transformed into a chamber opera by Jonathan Dove and performed by Durham Opera Ensemble. Emily Barnes and Charlie Jefford play the roles of Fanny and Edmund, with a supporting cast of DOE regulars. Jonathan Dove himself will be working with the cast and gives a public masterclass with them on 12 June for anyone who wants some insights into his opera.

Details of all the events featured in this preview can be found via the links below.