Buxton festival gives composer a big break - 200 years after his death

Adrian Chandler. Photo by Eric Richmond.
Adrian Chandler. Photo by Eric Richmond.

An opera so rarely performed that even the man who wrote it might not have seen it staged will be presented as part of this year’s Buxton International Festival.

The festival’s performance of Tisbe is the UK premiere of the only opera by Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello– and there is no evidence that this work was presented in the composer’s lifetime.

Specialist baroque ensemble La Serenissima will bring the opera to life and demonstrate its founder Adrian Chandler’s belief that Brescianello’s music deserves to be considered alongside works by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi.

The story is based on Ovid’s tale of the doomed lovers Pyramus and Thisbe, best known today through Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Brescianello (c.1690-1758) held posts in Venice and Bavaria before moving to the court of the Duke of Württemberg in Stuttgart where he dedicated his opera pastorale Tisbe to his employer, the Duke Eberhard Ludwig.

“The score is excellent, and I would go so far as to say that Tisbe is the best baroque opera I’ve ever come across,” said Adrian, who is recognised internationally as a leading interpreter of Italian baroque music with an ‘avant-garde approach that would have awed Jimi Hendrix’, according to The Guardian.

“Brescianello is a composer who deserves to be better known. Everything I have heard by him is absolutely first rate – this is a composer who should be up there with Bach, Handel and Vivaldi.”

So how does such brilliant music slip through the net? “A lot of composers fall out of fashion over the years,” said Adrian. “In the baroque era, when a composer died his repertoire went out of circulation rather quickly. The fact that Vivaldi, for example, is now re-established as a household name is simply his good fortune.”

Additionally, Brescianello spent a lot of time working in musical administration at the court in Württemberg, rather than composing and performing: “He never really got the breaks he deserved. We don’t think Tisbe was staged in in his lifetime – so he may never have seen the opera himself.”

In addition to highly melodic arias, the limited amount of recitative, or dialogue passages, in the opera ensures dramatic pace; the final recitative is preceded by a beautiful duet for the two lovers, Piramo and Tisbe.

La Serenissima is championing other works by Brescianello, but Buxton may well give the composer the big break he never enjoyed in his lifetime.

Tisbe will be performed at Buxton Opera House on July 12 and 17 at 7.15pm. Tickets £16-£52.

Other operas to be performed during the festival include Verdi’s creation Alzira (July 7, 10, 13,16, 18 and 20), tickets £20-£78; Mozart’s Idomeneo (July 8, 11, 14, 19 and 21), tickets £20-£78 and Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment (July 9 and 15), tickets £16-£57.

To book tickets, call 01298 72190 or go to www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk