Bampton Classical Opera 2019: Stephen Storace – Bride & Gloom (Gli sposi malcontenti)

In summer 2019 Bampton Classical Opera will present Stephen Storace’s
lively two-act comedy of marital manners Gli sposi malcontenti (1785), under the title Bride & Gloom. The company has
already staged Storace’s other Viennese opera Gli equivoci (The Comedy of Errors) with great success in 2000-1. The production
will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray, conducted by Anthony Kraus,
and will be sung in English.

A year before Gli equivoci, in 1785, Stephen was commissioned by
Emperor Joseph II to produce his first opera, Gli sposi malcontenti. The commission undoubtedly stemmed from the
Emperor’s infatuation with Stephen’s sister, Nancy Storace, then engaged as prima donna in the imperial Viennese Italian opera. Despite little
experience as a composer, Stephen had absorbed many of the latest musical
trends through his recent travels in Italy with his sister, and in Vienna
through his close friendship, and perhaps study, with Mozart. Although the
first performance of Sposi was hardly smooth – Nancy lost her
voice during the first act and retired from the stage for several months –
it nevertheless entered the repertory of the Burgtheater and was
subsequently well-received in Prague, Leipzig, Vienna and Paris.

As with Salieri’s La scuola de’ gelosi and La grotta di Trofonio, both performed by Bampton in recent years, Gli sposi malcontenti was one of a web of rival operas which had
their direct effect on Mozart and Da Ponte in the creation of Figaro and CosÏ fan tutte – a frenetic quintet involving
hiding on and behind a sofa and a whirlwind finale of mistaken identities
in the garden suggest that Storace’s librettist Gaetano Brunati knew
Beaumarchais’ then-banned play Le mariage de Figaro.

The plot concerns an unhappy and listless marriage between Casimiro and
Eginia, and the unsettling presence of past lovers and would-be rivals.
Brunati’s libretto is sharp and the pacing dramatic and varied. Storace’s
operatic music is characterised by a keen understanding of ensemble, often
piling in the voices in ever-changing textures, orchestration and tempi. It
is in fact a refined and luscious Viennese concoction, more Sachertorte mit Schlag than steak-and-kidney pudding.

Gli sposi malcontenti
was never performed in England in the 18th or 19th
centuries, although Storace reused much of its music in his varied
English-language operas in London. The English premiere was given by Opera
Viva at King’s College in London in 1985, but it has not been performed

Bampton Classical Opera is delighted that Gavan Ring will be joining the company for Bride & Gloom, having previously performed for Bampton in
Mozart’s La finta semplice. These will be among Gavan’s first
performances as a tenor, having already enjoyed a highly successful career
as a baritone, including appearances with Glyndebourne, Garsington and
Wexford. The talented team of singers assembled includes both company
debuts and some familiar faces.


Eginia – Jenny Stafford (soprano)

Bettina – Caroline Kennedy (soprano)

Enrichetta – Aoife O’Sullivan(soprano)

Casimiro – Gavan Ring (tenor)

Valente – Adam Tunnicliffe (tenor)

Artidoro – Arthur Bruce (baritone)

Rosmondo – Robert Davies (baritone)

Director/Designer – Jeremy Gray

Associate Director – Alicia Frost

Conductor: Anthony Kraus

Orchestra of Bampton Classical Opera (Bampton, Westonbirt)

CHROMA (St John’s Smith Square)

RÈpÈtiteur – Hannah Quinn

Libretto: Gaetano Brunati

English translation: Brian Trowell

Performances, with free pre-performance talks:

The Deanery Garden, Bampton, Oxfordshire OX18 2LL

7.00pm, Friday 19 and Saturday 20 July

The Orangery Theatre, Westonbirt School, Gloucestershire GL8 8QG

5.00pm, Monday 26 August

St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA

7.00pm, Tuesday 17 September