Opera at Chilmark produces an opera annually in the barn at Cleeves Farm, Chilmark, Salisbury over the August Bank Holiday weekend, with a long interval for picnicking.
The 2017 production was The Spring, an opera created in Salisbury in 1761.
Over the past few years, Nigel Wyatt has been researching the cultural life of Salisbury in the 18th century, using a wide range of archives. Salisbury Baroque has been using this research to recreate concerts from that period. Nigel has also unearthed this opera, which has not been performed for over 200 years, and the score for which is in Cambridge University Library.
James Harris, an MP who lived in the Cathedral Close and was a friend of Handel, was central to musical life in the city for many years in the mid-century. He created The Spring as a pasticcio - a collection of vocal music by a variety of composers, including Handel and Pergolesi, to which he set English words to make a topical story about a man who was to be conscripted to fight the French. Pasticcio operas were popular at that time and the music for this one is very appealing.
The work was twice performed in Salisbury in 1761 and then five times in London under the auspices of David Garrick in 1762. There were then a few performances around the country before it disappeared from view.
Comments from the audience:
Hearty congratulations and very many thanks for a magnificent performance yesterday evening. Opera at Chilmark and the whole production of The Spring after 200 dormant years was every bit the music, singing and spectacle that you said it would be. A fantastic effort by so many people, for which much gratitude.
Thank you for giving us all such a rollicking good time last night. You very nearly had the entire back row joining the choir for that last chorus. We hugely enjoyed ourselves.
A quick vote of congratulation to you and all your splendid team on this year's production - quite magical, further enhanced by the perfect summer weather. Your hard work has paid off in spades! Thank you so much for such a moving experience.
I think that is your best yet. It was so bright and cheerful and we all left with singing hearts. Reassure Jan that he has done a great job in reviving that lost opera. Great.
Again, warmest congratulations to you all (and Nigel!) ...a very enjoyable evening and slick performance!
Very many thanks to you and all involved for a most enjoyable evening - the whole thing was somehow quintessentially English in the best sense.
...And from a reviewer:
As a pastoral frolic one could not ask for better on a perfect Bank Holiday weekend than Opera at Chilmark’s production of The Spring, an opera created by James Harris of Salisbury with his own words arranged to music by a variety of composers.
In 1761 this, a so-called pasticcio opera, was a popular art form. Harris, resident of Malmesbury House, in the Close, Member of Parliament, author, amateur musician and friend of Handel and David Garrick, launched The Spring at the annual music festival. It was then well received in London at Drury Lane, in Oxford and elsewhere, but interest in it slowly petered out. Fortunately, Nigel Wyatt, researching the history of music in Salisbury, discovered a score in Cambridge University Library and together with Sue Wyatt has recreated the work.
It was a time when the French were giving us trouble. In a thin but engaging story two pairs of rustics, one more successful in the business of love than the other, with the advice of the village sage, steel themselves to the consequences of a general call to arms. In the nick of time, peace breaks out. The panic is over and there is general rejoicing. This, unusually, is an opera with a happy ending; no deaths are necessary.
Harris was a canny picker of very good tunes. From the upbeat overture to the last beautiful duet and resounding final chorus they are all good to listen to and some became popular songs in their own right.
Under the musical direction of David Davies and the stage direction of Jan Koene. Salisbury’s own little operatic gem has now returned to Wiltshire. The largely local company brought just the right flavour of jollity to the production. The two well matched pairs of young rustics - Michael Solomon Williams with Claudia Wood, and Ross Wilson with Nicky Ogborn were guided through their trials and tribulations by the characterful Ned Pattenden as the voice of wisdom. The chorus and dancers enthusiastically embraced the business of celebrating love and peace and being generally happy.
For more information or to join the mailing list please ring David Davies 01722 714440, email email@example.com or complete the form on the Contact page.
Opera at Chilmark warmly thanks Henry and Elizabeth Pelham, our extremely generous hosts.