Classic opera to be set in stunning grounds

Yvonne Fontane
Yvonne Fontane

Mezzo-soprano and stage director Yvonne Fontane returns to the stunning grounds of Winslow Hall from July 25 to August 3 to sing the title role and direct Bizet’s Carmen.

Fontane will take the lead for all six performances alongside a cast which includes Italian tenor Gianluca Paganelli as Don José, South African baritone Njabulo Madlala as Escamillo and Scottish-Polish soprano Natasha Day as Micaëla.

Yvonne Fontane in Carmen

Yvonne Fontane in Carmen

Formerly known as Stowe Opera, Winslow Hall Opera is run by founder and music director Robert Secret, who arranged the first opera at Stowe in 1991 to great acclaim. The festival continued with 19 productions all conducted by Mr Secret until 2005 when a massive programme of building work brought shows to a halt.

After a gap of six years, Stowe Opera found a new home last year when Mr Secret met Christopher and Mardi Gilmour, the owners of Sir Christopher Wren’s glorious mansion, Winslow Hall.

The couple’s love of opera led to the creation of a new home for the company, and The Marriage of Figaro was the first production to take place there. A performance marquee was erected on the terrace to the rear of the Hall, which enclosed the stage, orchestra and audience, while the gardens provided a stunning backdrop and doubled up as the perfect setting for patrons to relax and enjoy the summer evening with a picnic during the 90 minute interval.

Carmen, with its depictions of the life of normal people was highly controversial when it was first performed, now it is one of the most popular operas ever written and is full of memorable melodies and brilliant orchestration.

Ms Fontane, well known for her portrayal of the doomed femme fatale, said: “The story of Carmen is intimate, personal and eternally relevant to human nature and the relationships between all the characters will remain the focus of my production. I am looking forward to working with such a vibrant young cast in the wonderful surroundings of Winslow Hall.”

Performances take place between Thursday July 25 and Saturday August 3.

Weekend performances start at 5pm, weekdays at 5.30pm. There will be a 90 minute supper interval. Tickets cost £75 and are available from the box office 07504 298575 or