NCO Studio

The Choice of Hercules

Poussin, Nicolas; The Choice of Hercules; National Trust, Stourhead;

George Frederick Handel

Conductor: Chloe Rooke

New College Chapel
7 June 2017
Tickets £10/£5 from TicketSource
Or on the door

First performed in 1750, Handel’s The Choice of Hercules deals with a choice offered to the god Hercules, a choice between the paths of pleasure and virtue. The two women offer various arguments to Hercules, which culminates in the trio ‘Where shall I go’? In the end, Hercules chooses Virtue. Similar stories of choice were set in England throughout the 18th century, most notably The Judgement of Paris; Handel’s text, probably by Thomas Morell, comes from Robert Lowth’s 1743 poem of the same title.

Stravinsky’s Renard and Walton’s The Bear

Igor Stravinsky
Renard; an Histoire burlesque

Tenor 1: William Rowland
Tenor 2: Alexander Gebhard
Baritone 1: Eunseog Lee
Baritone 2: Frederick Crowley

William Walton
The Bear; an Extravaganza

Madam Popova: Johanna Harrison
The Bear: Daniel Tate
Luka: Frederick Crowley

Conductor: Chloe Rooke
Director: Michael Burden

9 & 10 March 2017 8.30pm
New College Ante-Chapel
Tickets £12/£7 from
Or on the door

William Walton’s The Bear and Igor Stravinsky’s Renard, have more in common than it might appear for, both are based on Russian tales: Walton’s ‘Extravaganza’ uses Chekhov’s play of the same name as its source, while Stravinsky’s ‘Histoire burlesque’ was based by the composer on Russian folk tales from a collection by Alexander Afanasyev. The full title of Renard can be translated as The fable of the Vixen, the Cock the Cat and the Ram, which is a vicious moralizing tale, satirising both religion and the Church. The Cock is caught twice by the Fox, and is twice rescued by the Cat and the Ram; after the second rescue, the Cat and Ram kill the Fox. The Bear is a more light- hearted piece, and tells the story of Popova, who has been recently widowed. However, her attempts to remain faithful to her husband receive a blow as it emerges that Popov was promiscuous and unfaithful. One of her husband’ creditors, Smirnov, arrives; he is boorish and crass (the Bear), but Popova falls in love with him, and the opera ends with Luka, the servant looking aghast at the turn of events. The Bear, a Koussevitzky commission, premiered at Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, on 3 June 1967; Renard was commissioned by Princesse Edmond de Polignac and was first performed in Paris on 18 May 1922, by the Ballets Russes.

Henry Purcell:
Dido and Aeneas

17, 18, 19 November 2016
New College Ante-Chapel, 8:30pm

Conductor: James Orrell175_dido2_category
Director: Michael Burden
Repetiteur: Chloe Rooke

Dido: Lila Chrisp
Aeneas: George Robarts
Belinda: Gabriella Noble

Tickets: £12/£7 concessions

Or on the door.

Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas is one of the most popular Baroque operas in the repertory today; paradoxically, it is also one of the slightest, lasting less than one hour, with a small chorus and band, only a few characters, and no spectacle. And yet Purcell’s Dido emerges as one of the greatest and strongest 17th-century opera heroines, a woman with great decision, and one who, even after the great 19th-century tragic figures have trod the stage, still has appeal for a contemporary audience.

Summer Oratorio

Cantata 54
Dixit Dominus

Directed by
James Orrell
8 June 2016
New College Chapel



Tickets at

Bach’s canata 54, Widerstehe doch der Sünde appears to have been written for performance in 1714, and there are various suggestions as to which was the intended Sunday. The text was originally written by Georg Christian Lehms for Oculi, the third Sunday in Lent, and was published in 1711. The canata may have already been composed when Bach began his regular cantata compositions in Weimar in 1714, where, as concertmaster, he assumed the principal responsibility for new compositions. This is his first extant church cantata for a solo voice, and the first of four written for a single alto soloist.

The second work on the programme, Handel’s Dixit Dominus, was composed while the composer was working in Rome. Written in 1707 when Handel was 22, it is a setting of Psalm 110, and is believed to have formed part of a setting of the Carmelite Vespers for the feast of the Madonna del Carmine. The psalm shows Christ portrayed as a prophet, priest and king not only of his own people, but of all nations. Handel’s Rome sojourn produced much elaborate and complex vocal music, including operas, cantatas, and his oratorio, La resurrezione, performed on the Easter Sunday of 1708 under Handel’s patron, Francesco Ruspoli. Dixit Dominus was supported by another patron, the Colonna family, and is most likely been performed on 16 July 1707 in the Church of Santa Maria in Montesanto.

Rothschild’s Violin

MGheadshotMarco Galvani

World Premiere

Thursday 11 and Friday 12 February 2016
New College Chapel

Musical director: James Orrell
Director: Michael Burden

Tickets available from

Review of Rothschild’s Violin on The Oxford Culture Review.

Marco Galvani

Marco is a composer studying with Robert Saxton at The Queen’s College, Oxford. While studying at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music, he was a composer with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, having works performed at Royal Festival Hall, Tate Modern in London, Belfast, Derry and the Sage, Gateshead. Commissioned by a variety of choirs and ensembles during his time at university, his works have been broadcast on BBC radio, including his piece Tantum Ergo, which was commissioned by the Edington Music Festival and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in in the Summer of 2015. His choral work Et Vidi Angelum was commissioned by The Queen’s College Chapel Choir, and will be recorded on their upcoming CD Revelation. Marco has received instrumental commissions from the Zeitgeist Chamber Orchestra, Oxford University String Ensemble, and more recently from the pianist Matthew Schellhorn. Working a number of different contexts, Marco has also produced scores for films and a number of dramatic productions in Oxford, including a production of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Marco plans to study composition as a postgraduate.

Rothschild’s Violin

Rothschild’s Violin is a chamber opera in one act based on the story of the same title by Anton Chekhov. This story tells the tale of Yakov, a coffin-maker in a non-descript town, who sees music as a consolation in his dreary life. He plays in the local orchestra alongside Rothschild, a flautist who has a habit of playing any melody in a mournful manner. Chekhov’s story addresses the themes of redemption, consolation and the transcendent power that music can have in people’s lives. By setting up such a marked contrast between Yakov’s work and leisure, Chekhov highlights the way in which music can move, inspire and provide consolation, regardless of personal worries and issues. I decided to adapt this story into a chamber opera due to these themes, as Yakov presents a moral paradox which is highly relevant to modern society. He is constantly concerned with his financial situation, and this leads him to ignore the beauty that the world has to offer. It is only at the end of his life, after suffering many crippling losses that Yakov realises this.

In musical terms, this chamber opera is based around a sequence of four note chords, which gradually combine over the course of the piece to give the sense of an overall progression and trajectory towards the redemptive themes of the story. Alongside this organisation of pitch material, there are a number of interfering musical themes which permeate the musical surface whenever certain themes are mentioned in the story. For example, when any character discusses the theme of music itself, the pitch material briefly steps outside of this system into a different realm. Similarly, each instrument in the ensemble has a particular significance, with the flute assuming a double role in that it represents Rothschild in the Orchestral Rehearsal scene, as well as representing the calming soul of Yakov’s wife, Martha. In this chamber opera I have used a number of different symbolic combinations of instruments, always focussing on the ability of certain instruments to resonate within each other. The piano, vibraphone, gong and bass drum provide a type of sonority which is inherently resonant, as this piece was designed specifically for the New College ante-chapel, in which is it being performed tonight.

A Comedy Double Bill

New Chamber Opera patrons who are intending to come to the comedy double bill, should note that the performances of Menotti’s The Telephone has been cancelled owing to cast illness. We will be re-scheduling the piece in a later programme.

We will still be performing Leonardo Leo’s La Zingaretta; this is, however, only a half-evening’s worth. Our apologies for this program alteration.

Thursday 19 & Saturday 21 November
New College Chapel

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lleoLeonardo Leo:
La Zingaretta

Lisetta – Amrit Gosal
Riccardo – Thomas Lowen

The Telephone

Lucy – Johanna Harrison
Ben – Patrick Keefe

Director: Michael Burden
Musical Director: James Orrell
Reptiteur: Chloe Rooke

Leonardo Leo was a Neapolitan, a product of training under Francesco Provenzale and Nicola Fago; his first opera was L’infedelta abbattuta premiered in 1712. He travelled little, and held posts at the Royal Chapel and the Naples Conservatory. His intermezzi included those for the opera l’Argene, a setting of L’impresario delle Isole Canarie , and La Zingaretta of 1731. Here, we enter the exotic world of the 18th-century gypsy. The music of the intermezzo includes a complicated aria for each character with a number of time and key changes.

The plot revolves around successive disguises and confusions. The zingaretta (the gypsy girl) has been pretending to be ‘Lisetta’. Before the opera opens, she has borrowed money from Riccardo; it is implied in the text that this has been in exchange for sexual favours. She then teases Riccardo by pretending to be the gypsy she in fact is. When he sees through the ‘gypsy disguise’ to ‘Lisetta’, he then declares his love. But he then discovers that ‘Lisetta’ was in fact a gypsy – for real! Like most men in intermezzi, Riccardo is not very bright; but he does love ‘Lisetta’, and as the gypsy leaves for Egypt (and the sun), he is devastated by his loss.

In the programme, this small gem is paired with a modern comedy, The Telephone (or L’Amour à trois) by Gianocarlo Menotti. The work was written in 1947 as a curtain-raiser to his longer work The Medium, and tells the tale of Ben, who is in love with Lucy, and who is desperate to propose marriage to her; if only she wouldn’t spend all the time on the phone! In the end, he resolves the dilemma by ringing her up and making his proposal over the airwaves.

Summer Oratorio

5c2b0-doloroso-crocifissione-e-morte-e1368984803541Pergolesi: Stabat Mater ~ Vivaldi: Gloria

Musical Director: James Orrell

Wednesday, 10 June 2015, New College Chapel, 8.00pm

Both the Stabat Mater and the Gloria are two of the best known sacred texts. Pergolesi’s setting, completed shortly before his death in 1736, is for soprano, alto, two violins and continuo and was influenced by the secular cantata and the chamber duet. His setting achieved immediate popularity and appeared in print many times during the 18th century. Vivaldi’s slightly earlier Gloria, RV589, possibly written in 1715, is in twelve movements. In contrast to the always popluar Pergolesi Satbat Mater, it was little known until it was included in the Vivaldi Week in 1939 at Sienna; it has been regularly performed ever since.

Michael Nyman: The man who mistook his wife for a hat

Credit: Anne Deniau

New College Ante-chapel
30 & 31 January 2015
Tickets £12/£6 concessions from TicketSource

Mrs P: Rose Rands;
Dr P: Brian McAlea;
Dr S: Tim Coleman

Musical director: Michael Pandya;
Director: Michael Burden;
Repetiteur: James Orrell

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a one-act chamber opera by Michael Nyman which was first performed at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, on 27 October 1986. The libretto is by libretto by Christopher Rawlence, who adpated it from the case study of the same name by Oliver Sacks. Accordsing to Saks, the story ‘inestiagtes the world of a person (Dr P) with visual agnosia (or “mental blindness” due to damage of the visual parts of the brain). Such patients “see but do not see”. They see colours, lines, boundaries, simple shapes, patterns, movement – but they are unable to recognise, or find sense in, what they see. They cannot recognise people or places or common objects; their visual world is no longer meaningful’ In Nyman’s opera, Dr P, a singer and singing teacher, is able to continue to communciate through music, and the minimalist score makes use of songs by Robert Schumann, in particular, ‘Ich grolle nicht’ from Dichterliebe.

Tomaso Albinoni: The Domineering Chambermaid


New College Ante-chapel
21 & 22 November 2014
Tickets £12/£6 from TicketSource

Musical director: Michael Pandya
Director: Michael Burden

Pimpinone: George Robarts
Vespetta: Bernadette Johns

in a new translation by Simon Rees

Tomaso Albinoni’s short intermezzo, The Domineering Chambermaid, tells the story of a servant girl, Vespetta, who marries her rather dim employer, Pimpinone, and having apparently made him the happiest man in the world, proceeds to misbehave, take his money, and embarrass him in public. She declares: ‘she will do exactly what she wants to do’! The piece was originally intended as light entertainment between the acts of an opera seria; it was first performed in 1708.

Summer Oratorio

attribue_a_martin_de_vos__la_fille_de_jephte-26-1Bach: Easter Oratorio
Carissimi: Jepthe

Conductor/Director: Michael Pandya

8.00pm, Wednesday 11 June 2014
New College Chapel

Tickets £10/£5 concessions available from:

and on the door.


Bach: Easter Oratorio

The Easter Oratorio, Bach’s first venture into the genre, began life as a cantata for Easter Sunday in 1725. The oratorio has attracted some criticism for its curious beginnings, the original cantata having been hastily re-worked from a pastoral drama per musica and the two shepherds (Menalcas and Damoetas) and two shepherdesses (Doris and Sylvia) transformed into Christ’s disciples. Far from downgrading the work and stifling its potential as a sacred expression, these secular roots breathe life, air and unabashed joy into this most celebratory day in the Christian calendar, consider the abundance of dance forms throughout the work, an ebullient gigue hailing the final chorus of thanksgiving. The cantata was expanded and re-scored in 1738 to become the Easter Oratorio, Bach curbing some of the more theatrical elements of the original to provide a more meditative atmosphere to the paraphrased scriptural narrative. The text begins with a description of the disciples Mary Magdalen, Mary Jacobe, Simon Peter and John running over each other on Easter morning to anoint the body of Jesus in the tomb. A superbly crafted Adagio for oboe and strings for the second movement conveys the sense of deep loss whilst the triple metre rushing sinfonia and chorus either side evoke the rushing desperation of the disciples to look upon Jesus’ body and pay tribute. After the fourth and fifth movements of mourning, the disciples find that the body is missing and the resurrection is revealed to them by and angel, the disciples departing with their voices raised in joyful thanksgiving.

Carissimi: Jepthe

Carissimi’s Jepthe, or Historia di Jepthe was composed around 1650; the work is often dated to 1648. At the time it was written, the word ‘oratorio’ was only gradually coming into use, and many of Carissimi’ s works are described as ‘Historia’. They were also in Latin, although all the texts were anonymous, and were designed as one-part works. However, Howard E. Smither has subdivided Jepthe into two Parts, Part I (in three subsections) emphasising ‘optimistic affections’, and Part 2 (in two subsections) consisting of lamentations. In Part 1, Jepthe vows he will kill the first person to come out of his house, if the Lord grants him victory over the Ammonites. He does win the battle, and then celebrates. But the first person to meet him out his house is his daughter, and he laments that he has to sacrifice her; a final chorus from her and her followers concludes the piece. Based on the story from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, the work uses a narrator whose part links the solos and choruses; these use the biblical text. Only a continuo accompanies the singers.