WHILE coronavirus has robbed us of our cultural events, one local institution has vowed to carry on with a programme of live opera.

Waterperry Opera Festival will go ahead next month for three days of gorgeously-staged, costumed al fresco entertainment.

The event takes place at Waterperry House and Gardens, near Oxford, on August 13, 15 and 16, and follows sell-out seasons in 2018 and 2019.

The mini-festival programme of outdoor opera will see performances of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte and Jonathan Dove’s song-cycle Ariel.

The splendour will be accompanied by strict safety measures, with the audience seated in pods, aimed at social distancing without impinging on style.

The costumed semi-staged performance of Mozart’s joyous masterpiece will be directed by Artistic Director Guy Withers on all days at 5.30pm

“We are so pleased to be able to able to announce our new summer plans,” says Guy.

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“It has been a long and difficult road, but we are glad to be able to welcome back both artists and audiences to live performance at Waterperry.

“Safety and comfort is of the upmost importance to us.

“We have introduced one-way routes, clear social distancing measures, enhanced cleaning of facilities, paperless ticketing systems, and restricted visitor numbers to mitigate Covid-19 and protect everyone who will be able to join at the festival.

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“Artists and organisations have hugely suffered due to the pandemic and it is so important to invest in the arts and for us to find innovative ways to reconnect with audiences and make new work.

“It is vital we support emerging artists so that opera cannot just survive, but thrive.”

He added: “Our cast will be made up of some of the UK’s most talented emerging singers, many of whom would have been performing with us in 2020 in our original programme, now postponed to 2021.

Banbury Cake:

“Audiences are invited to attend the performances in socially distanced ‘pods’ on the front lawn of Waterperry House and enjoy a wonderful evening of opera.”

With a nod to the national campaign to bring back the safe return of live music, he added: “We thoroughly support the #LetTheMusicPlay movement.”

Ariel, based on Shakespeare’s character from his play The Tempest, will be directed by Associate Artistic Director Rebecca Meltzer.

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The intimate production offers an insight into Ariel’s magical world following the spirit’s release from Prospero’s command.

Performances will take place at 2pm and 4pm on all days.

A film of the production will be streamed for those at home following the festival.

Prior to the pandemic, the opera was scheduled to perform a season featuring Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love in collaboration with English National Opera, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Dove’s Greed in the amphitheatre, house and gardens.

The opera’s Rhiannon Merrified said: “We have had to postpone this season to 2021. We have had to be very flexible, as we feel it is important to make sure that our audiences, performers, creatives and volunteers are all safe. We have pod system in place for audience members to sit and enjoy the performance safely, one way systems and hand-washing points and more.

“We are a young team and feel that supporting emerging artists is so important, especially now, hence involving past and current performers in this mini festival.

“We will also have online events for everyone to enjoy and we are aware that some individuals may not be able to make it, we have a podcast called Waterperry in the Wings, live streamed talks and performances planned.

“We had sold out for the initial dates of August 15 and 16, and so decided to add another date to meet the demand for live music.

“We are truly excited about this mini festival and bring opera back to Waterperry.”

More on Waterperry Opera Festival at waterperryoperafestival.co.uk

Tickets for Cosi Fan Tutte are £30 full price / £10 Students & under 18s.

Tickets for Ariel are £8 full price, and free for Students & under 18s.

Waterperry Opera Festival is committed to affordable opera and continually developing inclusivity and accessibility within opera. Over 1,800 people came last year.