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30 September 2016
London Early Opera are leading exponents of baroque research as they work closely with musicologists, historians, editors and researchers finding new interesting programmes, unrecorded music which feature detailed historical performance practice.
LEO link dramatic music and singing with narration and art history to create magical performances in their oratorio and concert performances.
They have recently recorded discs of Handel at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and Handel in Italy with multi Grammy winning producer Chris Alder and singers Sophie, Mary and Ben Bevan, Eleanor Dennis, Greg Tassell, Kirsty Hopkins, Claire Bessent, Charles MacDougal.
The group is directed by harpsichordist, conductor and early music specialist Bridget Cunningham and they have performed to acclaim at several major venues including Southwark Cathedral, Grosvenor Chapel and St James’ Church, Piccadilly and across France.
London Early Opera offers concerts, operas, educational workshops, lecture recitals and recordings and collaborate on other projects such as their recent recording of George Butterworth.
Bridget Cunningham is an international conductor, prizewinning harpsichordist and musicologist who trained at the Royal College of Music and was awarded a Junior Fellowship to work in the Centre for Performance History and coach singers in the baroque style.
As Artistic Director of London Early Opera, Cunningham is creating, researching and conducting an ongoing series of Handel recordings with Signum Classics exploring Handel the man, his music and his travels to capture musical snapshots of moments in his life. These new CDs are being released worldwide and include Handel in Italy Vol.1 & Vol.2, Handel in Ireland Vol.1 and Handel at Vauxhall Vol.1 & Vol.2 and handel’s Queens;
“Handel has never sounded better” BBC Music Magazine 5 Stars, October 2019
Her solo harpsichord performances include playing for Prince Charles and the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, Maison Hine and Château de Hautefort in France, the London Handel Festival and a broadcast on Austria’s National Radio Stephansdom with pianist Angela Hewitt. She coaches The Handelians from London Early Opera and collaborates with the Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi and baroque dance groups including Mercurius Company and Les Plaisirs Des Nations performing with them at Yale University. She also gives lecture recitals and concerts at Art Galleries including the opening of ‘Watteau: The Drawings Exhibition’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Cunningham is a versatile conductor and harpsichordist and has performed at several prestigious venues and festivals including the Opera house Teatro Petruzzelli Bari, Yale University’s Center for British Art America and recently conducted Handel’s Semele, Bach’s Easter Oratorio and also Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, Serenade, Haydn Harpsichord and Violin Concerto and Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen in a Romantic and Gipsy programme at St Martin-in-the Fields, London for the Music of the Spheres Ensemble. She also directed a world premiere with London Early Opera written by Grace Evangeline-Mason commissioned by the BBC to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of Handel’s Water Music – broadcast live on the River Thames. Other broadcasts include BBC 2 Messiah, BBC 4 Vivaldi’s Women, Radio 4 Front Row and Radio 3 In Tune, SkyArts, RTE, RTP and a short film for Handel and Hendrix in London.
Mary Bevan (soprano) read Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Trinity College, Cambridge, before training at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She became an Associate Artist of Classical Opera in 2010, and is a winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist award and the UK Critics’ Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent in Music.
Her opera roles include Susanna (The Marriage of Figaro), Despina (Così fan tutte), Papagena (The Magic Flute), Yum-Yum (The Mikado), Second Niece (Peter Grimes) and Rebecca (in the world première of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys) for English National Opera, where she is a Harewood Artist, Gerechtigkeit (Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots), Tamiri (Il re pastore), Servilia (La clemenza di Tito) and Emma (Thomas Arne’s Alfred) for Classical Opera, Zerlina (Don Giovanni) for Garsington Opera, Belinda (Dido and Aeneas) for The English Concert, and – for The Royal Opera – Music/ Euridice (Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo) at the Roundhouse and the title role in Luigi Rossi’s Orpheus at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Her extensive concert engagements have included Bellezza (Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno) with the Dunedin Consort, a Handel residency with Emanuelle Haïm at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and Handel’s Messiah with The English Concert and the English Chamber Orchestra, and she has appeared at the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival, Spitalfields Festival and Oxford Lieder Festival. Her recordings include ‘Handel in Italy’ with London Early Opera for Signum Classics, Handel’s The Triumph of Time and Truth and Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day with Ludus Baroque for Delphian Records, and Ludwig Thuille songs with Joseph Middleton and Mendelssohn songs with Malcolm Martineau, both for Champs Hill Records.
Georg Frideric Handel was a composer from the Baroque period. Handel wrote primarily music-dramatic works: 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios and duets, which comes to a total amount of almost 2000 arias! Furthermore, he composed English, Italian and Latin sacred music, serenades and odes. Among his instrumental music are several organ concertos, concerti grossi, overtures, oboe sonatas and violinsonates, along with many solo works for harpsichord and organ.
Together with Johann Sebastian Bach, who was born in the same year (1685), Handel is viewed as one of the greatest composers of his time. He was extremely prolific and wrote in total more than 610 works, many of which are still performed today.
Compared to his contemporaries Bach, Telemann and Scarlatti, Handel was by far the most cosmopolitan. When Handel was a child, his father, who was a surgeon at the court of Saxe-Weissenfels, imagined a juridical career for him. But his musical talents did not go unnoticed at the court, which forced the father to let him study music. In Hamburg, Handel befriended Mattheson. Together they visited Buxtehude, the greatest organ player of his time, in 1703 (two years before Bach did). At that time, Handel was already an excellent musician, but it wasn't until his stay in Italy - the land of opera - that his talents and skills truly started to flourish. Back in Germany, he received a position at the court of Hannover, where the noblemen had a connection to the British throne. Thanks to these connections, Handel decided to move to London, after which a puzzling history of intrigues and political games started. For example, it is unclear what the exact political message of his famous Water Music is, which was composed for a boat ride on the river Thames by King George. Initially, Handel focused on Italian opera during his stay in London, but from the 1730s onwards he started composing English spoken oratorios, with the celebrated Messiah at its peak.