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Marks the British staged premiere of this Smetana masterpiece
Sung in Czech
Libretto by Josef Wenzig, Czech translation by Ervín Špindler
Directed by Cecilia Stinton, Musical Director Charles Peebles
Opens 18 March at The Bloomsbury Theatre for 4 performances only
Smetana's 1872 opera Libuše, first performed in Britain at a concert performance at the 1998 Edinburgh Festival, receives its debut UK staging this March by University College Opera, a student opera company supported by Students’ Union UCL. Appropriately premiered at the opening of the National Theatre in Prague in 1881, this magnificent piece serves for the re-opening of the Bloomsbury Theatre after its refurbishment, celebrating University College Opera's return to its home after three years away performing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. The cast and orchestra, composed of both professionals and student members of UCL’s Music Society, will be led by musical director Charles Peebles, with direction by Cecilia Stinton.

UCOpera’s production reimagines Smetana's Bohemian queen and her medieval court in the modern-day city, where soaring skyscrapers promise glamour and wealth at a human cost. Born into a celebrated legal dynasty, Libuše, having inherited her late father’s firm, is queen of the corporate world and obliged to assert herself as its leader, working tirelessly to expand the firm and prove herself. A quarrel between her two most-valued senior partners, Chrudoš and St’áhlav, throws the stability of her company into jeopardy, and Chrudoš' sexist attack on her leadership threatens to push Libuše over the edge. Tasked with arbitrating over their argument, Libuše feels the true loneliness of being a woman at the top. Who can give her the support she needs?

Cecilia Stinton is a London-based opera director; she has directed for Spectra Ensemble, Helios Collective, XOGA, Wagner 1900 and Opera Holland Park, and assisted at British Youth Opera and University College Opera, London. Alongside her freelance work, Cecilia is reading for an AHRC-funded PhD in History of Art at UCL. Having been assistant director for the past two UCO productions, we are delighted that this will not only be Cecilia’s debut directing for UCO but also the first time a current student takes up the reins.

The orchestra will be under the baton of award-winning conductor Charles Peebles. Charles has conducted many distinguished orchestras and ensembles including the BBC Singers, London Mozart Players and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. His repertoire also features numerous operas, including a critically acclaimed series of Rossini opera productions for Garsington Opera ‘it was Charles Peebles’ conducting that gave the evening its irresistible impetus’ (Richard Osbourne), Mozart’s Don Giovanni for Bavarian State Opera and a hugely successful production of Cilea’s L’arlesiana with Holland Park Opera and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Libuše will be Peebles’ seventeenth production with UCO.

“The original story, culled from legend going back to the eighth century, concerns the fortunes of the beautiful and wise Princess Libuše, second of three daughters of Krok, who rules. She draws the Czech nation together, settling a difficult family dispute and marrying Přemysl, who joins her in ruling and whose lineage would last nine hundred years. The opera culminates in a series of her visions of what is, at the time of the opera's setting, the future. Perhaps more than any other work of this proud and fiercely nationalist composer, this ‘Festival opera’ joyously celebrates the independent spirit of the Czech nation and consequently continues to enjoy a buoyant life in the Czech Republic. It is perhaps an unusual example of a very major work by a very major composer that, thus far, has only local recognition. The music is sublime, characteristic and spectacular. This truly is the great Czech opera you don't know.” – Charles Peebles, Musical Director.


The student cast will be joined by four exciting professional talents.

The role of Libuše will be sung by the Berlin based New-Zealand-British soprano Kirstin Sharpin. Recent operatic engagements include the title role in Beethoven’s Leonore for the Buxton Festival, Isolde in an adaptation of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde for the University of Oxford's 'Wagner 1900' conference, a critically-acclaimed Elettra Idomeneo (Blackheath Halls Opera), and Gertrud Hänsel und Gretel (Garsington Young Artists at West Green). Kirstin has given concert performances of the title role in Weber’s Euryanthe, Ada Die Feen and Mariana Das Liebesverbot for Chelsea Opera Group, and Gerhilde Die Walküre for Saffron Hall Opera. Other roles include Samaritana Francesca da Rimini (Opera Holland Park), Donna Anna (Regents Opera), Angelica Suor Angelica (Beethoven Ensemble) and at the RCS, Tatyana Eugene Onegin, Fiordiligi Cosí fan Tutte, and Nella Gianni Schicchi, as well as covering Magda La Rondine for British Youth Opera.

Singing opposite Kirstin in the role of Přemysl is the British-born baritone Robert Davies, who is returning to sing with UCO for a second time. A graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Robert’s wide-ranging experience includes opera, concert and consort singing, having sung under the baton of such distinguished conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Sir John Elder. Operatic roles include Marcello in La Bohème, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro and Doctor Falke Die Fledermaus on the Glyndebourne Festival Tour. Roles elsewhere include his debut at the Opera Comique, Paris as Ottoker Der Freischutz (also a BBC Prom), Ned Keene Peter Grimes for the Stadttheater Bern, Verdi's Rigoletto for Bury Court Opera and Papageno in The Magic Flute for English Touring Opera.

The baritone John Mackenzie sings the role of Lutobor. Widely respected for his warm, lyrical voice and versatility as a performer, Richard appears regularly at concert halls and opera houses throughout Europe. Opera roles have included Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Staatsoper Hannover; Enrico Lucia di Lammermoor at the Nationaltheater Mannheim and Germont in La Traviata at the Staatstheater Mainz. In concert he has appeared at such venues as the Berliner Philharmonie, the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall, with orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the John Wilson Orchestra. Other opera engagements in 2017 include the role of Olivier in Strauss’ Capriccio in Innsbruck.

In the role of Krasava will be the Canadian-British soprano Eve Daniell. During her time studying at the Royal Academy of Music Eve won the prestigious Pavarotti Prize. Since graduating, operatic roles have included Fiordiligi (Opera Holland Park cover, Pop Up Opera, Cooper Hall Emerging Artists Programme), Elettra (Amersham Festival), Donna Elvira (OHP cover), Konstanze (Pop Up Opera), Tatyana (Dartington International Summer School) and Nerone in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea (Royal Academy Opera). Eve has also appeared as a soloist in the BBC's Last Night of the Proms (2016) singing Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music.

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Standard: £25
Concessions (60+, U18): £17
Students + UCL Staff: £9
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