Opera at Chilmark performed The Spring, created by James Harris, in the Salisbury International Arts Festival on Sunday 2 June 2019 before two full houses.
Two years ago we re-created this work at Chilmark and it was very warmly received. It is a pasticcio, that is to say the music is from a variety of composers, with new words. Harris, who lived in Malmesbury House in the Salisbury Cathedral Close, both chose the music and wrote the libretto. Pasticcio was a popular art-form in the mid 18th century.
The work was given three performances in Salisbury in 1761, one in the annual Salisbury Musical Festival, and then was taken to London by David Garrick where there were five further performances at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1762. Thereafter it was occasionally performed around the country but then gradually disappeared from view. Detailed work by Nigel Wyatt* on the cultural life of Salisbury in the 18th century revealed that there remained a score in the Cambridge University Library, and from this he created a modern performing edition.
One reviewer wrote that Harris was a 'canny picker of very good tunes' and certainly it proved an audience-pleaser at Chilmark - one member of the audience wrote 'I think that is your best yet. It was so bright and cheerful and we all left with singing hearts. Jan [the director] has done a great job in reviving that lost opera.'
As always, soloists were joined by the company's chorus, orchestra and dancers.
The two performances, at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on June 2 were in the Medieval Hall in the Cathedral Close - just a few hundred yards from where the opera was created.
David Davies Musical Director
*Nigel talked about the annual Salisbury Music Festivals of the 18th century on Saturday 1 June at Salisbury Museum in the Close.