NCO Studio

Lo Speziale, The Apothecary


18 & 19 November 2018
New College Ante-chapel

Tickets: £12/£6 concessions

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Musical Director – Anhad Arora
Répétiteur – Joseph Beesley
Director – Michael Burden

Sempronio, an old apothecary – Maximilian Lawrie
Grilletta, Sempronio’s ward – Emily Gibson
Mengone, Sempronio’s apprentice – Jacob Clark
Volpino, a young rich dandy – Indyana Schneider

Haydn’s short comic opera The Apothecary – described as ‘a comedy of great warmth and ebullience’ – was written for performance at Estahazy in 1768. The libretto is by the creator and master of the comic opera libretto, Carlo Goldoni. The story is a love tangle, in which the old Apothecary is in love with his ward Grilletta – but as also is the poor apprentice Mengone, and the rich and assured dandy Volpino. The action twists and turns encompassing a marriage contract, a map of Turkey, and the appearance of Volpino disguised as a Pasha.

The Peasant Cantata and The Coffee Cantata

J S Bach
The Summer Oratorio

Anhad Arora – Director

Emily Gibson – Soprano
Will Anderson – Tenor
John Lee – Bass

New College Ante-chapel
8.00pm, 6 June 2018
£10/£5 concessions

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The Coffee and Peasant cantatas by J.S. Bach reveal a wordly – even parodic — side to a composer often associated with cerebral themes. The Coffee Cantata, written for a performance in Zimmerman’s newly founded Kaffeehaus, is a satirical exploration of a pernicious addiction to coffee. The black concoction, after its introduction into the Western world at the end of the 17th century, was worshipped by some – perhaps because of the drink’s putative status as an aphrodisiac – and reviled by others. Bach’s cantata on the subject is ferociously witty; it includes, amongst other numbers, a veritable love song to the delectable liquid: ‘Ei! Wie schmeckt der Kaffee süsse’ . The Peasant Cantata, no less profane in theme, can be described as a comic dialogue in music. The text, written in a dialect peculiar to Upper Saxony, describes, with close attention to all matters financial, the banal existence of two peasants, an unnamed farmer and his wife, Mieke. With 24 movements, it is one of Bach’s most elaborately structured cantatas; with only 2 singers and 3 permanent instrumentalists, it is also one of his most economically scored.

The Rake’s Progress

New Chamber Opera Studio
Igor Stravinsky
The Rake’s Progress

14 & 15 February 2018
Sheldonian Theatre


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Conductor – Chloe Rooke
Repetiteur – Anhad Arora
Chorus director - Joseph Beesley
Director – Michael Burden


Anne Trulove – Emily Gibson
Tom Rakewell – Maximilian Lawrie
Nick Shadow – Patrick Keefe
Father Trulove – Tom Lowen
Baba the Turk – Carrie Thomson
Keeper of the Madhouse – Josh Newman

Stravinsky’s neo-classical opera The Rake’s Progress tells the story of Tom Rakewell, who, at the behest of Nick Shadow (the Devil), abandons his intended, Anne Trulove, for the dubious delights of the city. Shadow leads him into a variety of scrapes, including a scheme to turn stones into bread, a visit to a brothel, and marriage to a bearded lady. He ends up in Bedlam, the Devil having stolen his reason. The Moral? ‘For idle hearts and hands and minds the Devil finds work to do.’ The tale, loosely based on William Hogarth’s series of pictures, is by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Acis and Galatea

G F Handel
Acis and Galatea
Acis, Galtea, Polyphemus

Conductor: Chloe Rooke

23 & 25 November 2017
New College Ante-Chapel

£15/£7 concessions
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One writer on Handel’s Acis and Galatea has commented: ‘It is not clear whether the original performance was staged, semi-staged, or performed as a concert work.’ And therein lies differences in terminology and staging which dogged the work throughout the 18th century. The first term applied to it was ‘masque’, a form in which dance was usually a decisive element. Then it was described as an ‘opera’, implying a filly costume staging of the piece. Next up was the label ‘serenata’, a performance that was advertised as being in costume, but with no movement on the stage. Lastly, it was called an ‘oratorio’, suggesting performances with no costumes and no staging, although it was too short for an evening’s performance and had other works on the theatrical bill to make up a ‘Part III’. New Chamber Opera has performed Acis and Galatea in the past as an oratorio; in November, we will be performing it in a new staging, exploring as aspects of the drama.

The work was written by Handel when he was living at Cannons Park, the home of the Duke of Chandos, during 1717-1718. It traces its origins to the series of pastoral masques set by Johann Pepusch in the second decade of the 18th century, and to the work of the poet John Hughes. The text is attributed to John Gay, and based on Book XIII of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Acis and Galatea are in love; the monster Polyphemus loves Galatea and kills Acis out of jealousy; Galatea assuages her grief by turning Acis into a river spirit as immortal as herself.

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
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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
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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.