Thursday, 11 August 2022

Opera charity to stage music concert at estate

AN opera performance of the kind seen 200 years ago will be revived at Fawley Court next month.

AN opera performance of the kind seen 200 years ago will be revived at Fawley Court next month.

Opera Prelude, a Henley charity which nurtures young musicians, will stage

La Regatta di Fawley Court — A Salon Extravaganza
in the Grade II* listed deconsecrated chapel.

The inspiration for the performance, which will take place on September 10, is taken from the journal of socialite Caroline Lybbe Powys. The compulsive diarist gave lively descriptions of the high society gatherings that took place at Fawley Court, which often went on until the early hours of the morning.

Powys described the glittering events she attended in detail. By far, the grandest was “gala week” in January 1777 when grand suppers and balls running into the small hours were held at the Bell Inn and at Fawley Court, where “ninety-two sat down to supper”.

The performance will include a nod to the great singers of the day, such as the English soprano Nancy Storace. The child prodigy was friend to Mozart and Haydn, with the former creating Susanna in

The Marriage of Figaro
especially for her.

Opera Prelude singers will take on the virtuoso arias written for Storace and her contemporaries.

Organiser Fiona Hamilton, founder of the charity, said: “It is a celebration of Fawley Court past and present. I had come across a book, an incredible journal written by Caroline Lybbe Powys. It was published in 1815 and her brother-in-law was rector at Fawley and went on to be chaplain to George III.

“She travelled a lot and kept a record in this journal of the parties and assemblies and balls that she went to in many of the huge houses in the country. Aida Hersham was kind enough to allow us to use Fawley Court and I remembered Caroline Lybbe Powys’s account of balls at Fawley Court. We have had great fun in pulling together snippets from her journal about the incredible receptions and celebrations at Fawley Court and the music written at that time.”

Mrs Hamilton started the charity five years ago when she was arranging an event in aid of Fawley Church because its roof needed repairing.

But some of the performers had pulled out at the eleventh hour, including the mezzo soprano who was replaced at the last minute.

She said: “We managed to find another mezzo soprano, a young girl, whom I met at the church for a rehearsal. We chatted and she told me that she was being paid £6 and that the train journey cost her £12. I remember me saying to her that this was ridiculous.

“Young singers are desperate for the opportunities to perform as it is really hard when you get started. So I organised a bunch of friends and we started Opera Prelude. It has grown bigger than expected thanks to the generosity of our audiences.” The group, which numbers 16 musicians aged between 23 and 32, performs during the academic year and from September to December they have 16 shows.

Mrs Hamilton was first introduced to opera by her husband. She admits that she didn’t take to it at first but stuck at it.

She said: “When my husband and I married I had never really heard of opera before but he loved it, so for the first 20 years of our marriage or so I would go and not really enjoy it.

“But when I heard Beethoven it changed. I realised I was not breathing and I had tears coming down my face as I really identified with the performance.”

She added: “I thought then that maybe opera had something. It was incredible from that moment.”

Tickets for

La Regatta di Fawley Court
, on September 10 from 6.30pm, are £30 (£25 in advance), which includes a £10 donation to the charity. Book online at or call 079088 94333.

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