Episode 11: Book launch - Longborough Festival Opera: the first 30 years

Longborough Festival Opera: the first 30 years is a new book chronicling how a dream of an idea became bricks, mortar and sublime music.

In this recording of the book launch, author Richard Bratby talks to music historian Sophie Redfern about Martin and Lizzie Graham's remarkable achievement, and the story of opera at Longborough.

Internationally renowned tenor Mark Le Brocq reads from the book and performs Wagnerian excerpts, accompanied by Longborough's acclaimed Music Director Anthony Negus; plus special guest appearance by baritone Roderick Williams.

This event was recorded live at Chipping Campden's Cidermill Theatre. Find out more about the book >

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Richard Bratby

Richard Bratby is a critic for The Spectator, Gramophone, Bachtrack and The Birmingham Post, and writes on music, opera and culture for the BBC, the Salzburg Festival and concert promoters around the world. Formerly an orchestral cellist in the now-defunct Sri Lanka Philharmonic, he worked as a concerts manager for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and later the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, where he founded and managed the CBSO Youth Orchestra. His books include Forward: 100 Years of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (“a gem”: The Oldie), Classical Music: An Illustrated History and Refiner’s Fire: the Academy of Ancient Music and the Historical Performance Revolution. Born on the Wirral, Richard studied History at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and worked briefly as a History teacher before entering the classical music business. He is married to the theatre historian Dr Annette Rubery, and they live in Lichfield with their cat Rusty and several miniature steam locomotives.

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Sophie Redfern is a music historian who combines formal positions in academia and the arts with freelance writing and speaking on classical music.

She is Lecturer in Music at King's College London and Tutor for the Open College of the Arts, having previously held teaching and research posts at the University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and Liverpool Hope University.

As a researcher, Sophie specialises in twentieth-century music and dance. Her first book, Bernstein and Robbins: The Early Ballets, was published as part of the Eastman Studies in Music series and named a 2022 CHOICE 'Outstanding Academic Title'. In recent years she has also contributed to The Cambridge History of Music Criticism and The Cambridge Stravinsky Encyclopedia. Forthcoming articles and chapters explore Bernstein and Copland's relationship, American Ballet Theatre on tour, and the scenic designer Oliver Smith.

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Mark Le Brocq held a choral scholarship at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge where he read English. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Kenneth Bowen and later continued at the National Opera Studio where he was sponsored by The Friends of English National Opera. Upon completing his studies, he became a Company Principal with English National Opera where roles include Tamino The Magic Flute; Paris King Priam; Count Almaviva The Barber of Seville; Narraboth Salome; Cassio Otello; Don Ottavio Don Giovanni; Don Basilio Figaro and Doctor Maxwell The Silver Tassie.

Most recent and future engagements include Aschenbach in a new production of Death in Venice (Welsh National Opera), Mazal The Excursions of Mr Broucek and Melot/Sailor Tristan und Isolde (Grange Park Opera), Siegfried Götterdämmerung (Grimeborn Festival), Vitek The Makropolos Affair (WNO /Brno Festival), World premieres of Blackford's Babel (Camden Choir) and Fennessy's The Riot Act (RSNO). (read more)

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Roderick Williams is one of the most sought-after baritones of his generation with a wide repertoire spanning baroque to contemporary. He enjoys relationships with all the major UK and European opera houses also performs regularly with leading conductors and orchestras throughout the UK, Europe, North America and Australia. Festival appearances include the BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Aldeburgh and Melbourne. As a recitalist he is in demand around the world and appears regularly at venues including the Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw and Musikverein and at song festivals including Leeds Lieder, Oxford Lieder and Ludlow English Song.

Roderick Williams was awarded an OBE in June 2017 and was Artist in Residence with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra from 2020-22, Artist in Residence at the 2023 Aldeburgh Festival and Singer in Residence at Music in the Round. He was also one of the featured soloists at the coronation of King Charles III in 2023.

As a composer he has had works premièred at Wigmore Hall, the Barbican, the Purcell Room and on national radio. In 2016 he won Best Choral Composition at the British Composer Awards and from 2022/23 he holds the position of Composer in Association of the BBC Singers.

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Anthony Negus worked in 2021 at ENO on The Valkyrie (‘Negus’s conducting is as natural as breathing’ – Wagner News). 2022 opened with Die Walküre for Melbourne Opera, followed by four performances of Siegfried for Longborough, and two semi-staged performances of Der fliegende Holländer with Bryn Terfel, Rachel Nicholls, Nicky Spence and Peter Rose for Grange Park Opera. Then it was back to Melbourne in September for an acclaimed concert performance of Siegfried in the Recital Hall. Anthony has now conducted two cycles of Melbourne Opera’s Bendigo Ring in March/April. Following Götterdämmerung for Longborough, Anthony conducts Chelsea Opera Group’s Un ballo in maschera in Cadogan Hall, London on 23 October. 

Over many years at Longborough, Anthony has established himself as a highly perceptive and sensitive conductor of Wagner, exemplified by the highly acclaimed Ring cycles in 2013, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Der fliegende Hollander, also The Magic Flute and Ariadne auf Naxos. In 2017 The London Wagner Society presented him with the Reginald Goodall Award for his devotion to the works of Richard Wagner.

Guest appearances: Lübeck (Parsifal and Holländer); Glyndebourne (Die Meistersinger); Wellington Festival (Parsifal). Highlights of his 35 years with Welsh National Opera were Tristan, The Valkyrie with Goodall, Pelleas with Pierre Boulez and conducting Parsifal. He has conducted more than 150 performances for WNO, especially Mozart. 

He read music at Christ Church Oxford, and gained opera conducting experience at the Else Mayer-Lismann Opera Workshop and the London Opera Centre. He studied conducting with Franco Ferrara in Sienna, and George Hurst in the UK. Anthony made his conducting debut in Wuppertal with d’Albert’s Tiefland, and worked at Bayreuth and Hamburg. 

Future plans include three cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen for Longborough in 2024 and further projects in Australia.

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Buy the book

Our new book Longborough Festival Opera: the first 30 years celebrates the story of opera at Longborough. Buy your copy online.

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