Wednesday, 21 August 2019

An Inside Look at Being Mr Wickham

 We’re talking Pride and Prejudice this week with a behind the scenes look at Being Mr Wickham, my brand new, sold out theatre show in which Adrian Lukis returns to his celebrated role as Jane Austen’s most rakish rogue. Plus naked Darcy, scandalous queens and Mr Bennet throws some shade. With thrilling Captivating Captains news hot off the press. Only in Gin & Gentlemen! 

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Bampton Classical Opera - Bride & Gloom

It’s time to get your opera on!



STEPHEN STORACE: Bride & Gloom (Gli sposi malcontenti)

The Orangery Theatre, Westonbirt School, Glos: Monday 26 August
St John’s Smith Square, London: Tuesday 17 September 

Libretto: Gaetano Brunati
English translation: Brian Trowell
Director/Designer: Jeremy Gray
Conductor: Anthony Kraus
Orchestra of Bampton Classical Opera (Westonbirt)
CHROMA (St John’s Smith Square)

“…a charmer….Storace’s sparkling score makes one regret that relatively little of his music has survived.”  Inge Kjemtrup,

This summer Bampton Classical Opera presents Stephen Storace’s lively two-act comedy of marital manners Gli sposi malcontenti (1785), under the title Bride & Gloom. The company has already staged Storace’s other Viennese opera Gli equivoci (The Comedy of Errors) with great success in 2000-1.  The production is designed and directed by Jeremy Gray, conducted by Anthony Kraus and is sung in English.

Stephen Storace is an undeservedly neglected English 18th-century composer, whose hugely successful later London operas such as The Pirates helped establish a trend which eventually led to Gilbert and Sullivan.  Gli sposi malcontenti, his first opera, was commissioned in Vienna in 1785 by the Emperor Joseph II, and creates a web of amorous intrigue, lies and slander, expressed in music of dynamic orchestral colour and driving energy.  The commission partly came about because Joseph was infatuated with Stephen’s sister, the legendary soprano Nancy (Anna Selina) Storace. Unfortunately on the opening night Nancy lost her voice, and retired from the stage for several months. She was full of remorse for letting her brother down, although in the end the opera itself was well received.

Newly-wed Casimiro and Eginia hardly seem to be enjoying a state of marital bliss.  Why does Eginia sleep on her own, and why is her ex, Artidoro, still hanging around?  He now seems to have an eye for the undoubted charms of Casimiro’s sister, Enrichetta – but she’s also attracted the lustful interest of dull and dusty Dr Valente, a man likely to turn nasty if thwarted…

Bampton Classical Opera is delighted that Gavan Ring joins the company for Bride & Gloom, having previously performed for Bampton in Mozart’s La finta semplice.  These are among Gavan’s first performances as a tenor, having already enjoyed a highly successful career as a baritone, including appearances with Glyndebourne, Garsington and Wexford. The talented team of singers assembled includes both company debuts and some familiar faces.

“Highly engaging………admirers of (Mozart) really should make every effort to take up this rare chance to deepen their appreciation of the context in which he worked.”  Curtis Rogers,

Stephen Storace’s Gli equivoci (The Comedy of Errors), one of the most significant of the many little-known operas staged by Bampton Classical Opera over the past 25 years, proved to be a revelation. The Times commented: “the forgotten Storace, like steak-and-kidney pudding, is a victim of the inverted snobbery of the English” and praised the “brilliantly handled” extended ensemble finales, the “deft and delicate scoring” and the surprising maturity of this 24-year-old English composer, collaborating at that time in Vienna with Lorenzo da Ponte. 

A year before Gli equivoci, in 1785, Stephen was commissioned by Emperor Joseph II to produce his first opera, Gli sposi malcontenti. The commission undoubtedly stemmed from the Emperor’s infatuation with Stephen’s sister, Nancy Storace, then engaged as prima donna in the imperial Viennese Italian opera.  Despite little experience as a composer, Stephen had absorbed many of the latest musical trends through his recent travels in Italy with his sister, and in Vienna through his close friendship, and perhaps study, with Mozart.  Although the first performance of Sposi was hardly smooth – Nancy lost her voice during the first act and retired from the stage for several months – it nevertheless entered the repertory of the Burgtheater and was subsequently well-received in Prague, Leipzig, Vienna and Paris.  

As with Salieri’s La scuola de’ gelosi and La grotta di Trofonio, both performed by Bampton in recent years, Gli sposi malcontenti was one of a web of rival operas which had their direct effect on Mozart and Da Ponte in the creation of Figaro and Così fan tutte– a frenetic quintet involving hiding on and behind a sofa and a whirlwind finale of mistaken identities in the garden suggest that Storace’s librettist Gaetano Brunati knew Beaumarchais’ then-banned play Le mariage de Figaro.

The plot concerns an unhappy and listless marriage between Casimiro and Eginia, and the unsettling presence of past lovers and would-be rivals.  Brunati’s libretto is sharp and the pacing dramatic and varied. Storace’s operatic music is characterised by a keen understanding of ensemble, often piling in the voices in ever-changing textures, orchestration and tempi.  It is in fact a refined and luscious Viennese concoction, more Sachertorte mit Schlag than steak-and-kidney pudding.

Gli sposi malcontenti was never performed in England in the 18th or 19th centuries, although Storace reused much of its music in his varied English-language operas in London.  The English premiere was given by Opera Viva at King’s College in London in 1985, but it has not been performed since.

Bampton Classical Opera enjoys a national reputation for its passionate and enlightened discoveries of rare late 18th-century operas, sung in lively new translations.  Amongst these have been UK premières of Bertoni Orfeo, Isouard Cendrillon, Marcos Portugal The Marriage of Figaro, Paer Leonora, Benda Romeo and Juliet, Gluck Il Parnaso confuso, Philemon and Baucis and Salieri Falstaff.   The company works with some of the finest emerging young professional singers and stages productions in rural venues in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire as well as regularly in London at St John’s Smith Square.  Other significant venues and festivals have included Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room, Buxton Festival, Cheltenham Festival and Theatre Royal Bath. Bampton Classical Opera encourages a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, and with ticket prices being excellent value, their performances provide an ideal introduction to anyone unaccustomed to opera.

Bride & Gloom performances, with free pre-performance talks:​​      
The Orangery Theatre, Westonbirt School, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8QG
5.00 pm Monday 26 August

St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA
7.00 pm Tuesday 17 September

Booking Information, Bampton and Westonbirt
Tickets: £38 (under 18: half-price)
By Telephone: 01993 851142

By Post: Bampton Classical Opera, 1 Deanery Court, Broad Street, Bampton, OX18 2LY

Booking information, St John’s Smith Square
Tickets: £18, £28, £38.  Booking opens in July
By Telephone: 020 7222 1061
By Post: St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA

Monday, 29 July 2019

Being Mr Wickham - SOLD OUT!

I'm absolutely delighted to say that Being Mr Wickham, starring Adrian Lukis, is now completely sold out at Bath! You can imagine how thrilled I am that my very first theatrical show is a sellout, but luckily there are still a handful of tickets left at Stamford. Be quick though, they're flying out the door!

"Written off as a rake and reviled as a rogue, join George Wickham on the eve of his sixtieth birthday to discover his version of some very famous literary events. From childhood games at Pemberley to a run-in with Lord Byron, via marriage to Lydia and just a little bit of matchmaking for Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, Mr Wickham is ready to set the record straight."

Sunday, 14 July 2019

The Captivating Captains

As we prepare for the forthcoming release of our Regency romcom, The Captain and the Theatrical, what better time to get to know some other captivating captains?
For a limited time, you can snag the swoonsome first book in the series, The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper for just 99c/p. Follow the links below to get started… the captains are waiting!

Monday, 1 July 2019

Being Mr Wickham: On Sale Now

Booking is now open for Being Mr Wickham, starring Adrian Lukis, at Bath's Masonic Hall on 15th September! I'm so excited to have written this show, which sees Adrian return to the role of Mr Wickham as Austen's most infamous rogue looks back at his life on the eve of his 60th birthday.

Tickets are already selling fast!

Click this link to book:

If you'd prefer to catch the show at Stamford, you can do so by clicking here:

"Written off as a rake and reviled as a rogue, join George Wickham on the eve of his sixtieth birthday to discover his version of some very famous literary events. From childhood games at Pemberley to a run-in with Lord Byron, via marriage to Lydia and just a little bit of matchmaking for Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, Mr Wickham is ready to set the record straight."

Monday, 10 June 2019

Being Mr Wickham

I'm thrilled to finally announce my super secret project. On 15th September Bath's fabulous Jane Austen Festival will host the premier of Being Mr Wickham, my theatrical writing debut, starring Adrian Lukis (who else!?) as Jane Austen's quintessential rogue. 

Mr Wickham may be a little older, but is he any wiser?

"Written off as a rake and reviled as a rogue, join George Wickham on the eve of his sixtieth birthday to discover his version of some very famous literary events. From childhood games at Pemberley to a run-in with Lord Byron, via marriage to Lydia and just a little bit of matchmaking for Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, Mr Wickham is ready to set the record straight."

The performance will be followed by a Q&A with Adrian and me. 

This is an absolute dream come true moment for me - I'm still pinching myself!

Tickets go on sale soon, but I couldn't keep it to myself a moment longer!

You can also catch the show as the finale to Stamford Georgian Festival on 29th September. Click here to book!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Dear Jane

It's my pleasure to welcome Allie Cresswell, who's visiting the salon to consider the matter of history in the works of Jane Austen.


Jane Austen’s novels are loved today, in part, for the sense of history they evoke; those elegant drawing rooms and the graceful life-style of Regency ladies within them - such a far cry from our stressed and utilitarian, tech-driven world. The courtly, restrained attentions of well-dressed gentlemen - the suppressed passion of a clasped waist or a kissed hand, or even the meaningful glance across a crowded ballroom, is so much more romantic than the sex-obsessed world of today.
The erudite conversation; wots nt 2 luv?  
And yet when Jane Austen wrote her novels they were not historical, they were contemporary. She described the times in which she lived; her comments - on behaviour, morals and manners - were on her own here and now.
In fact there is little actual history in any of her books. With one notable exception she makes no reference to politics, real-life figures or tangible events and so it is practically impossible to place her novels in any exact time frame. Persuasionis the exception. Captain Wentworth mentions the year in which he took his first captaincy and Admiral Croft brings the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba. It is hard to know why she tended to avoid real-life references; perhaps she thought them irrelevant or thought she could not mention them without making comment which might alienate some readers. More likely, politics and world affairs were considered no business for women’s minds, a state of affairs upon which, we can be sure, Miss Austen would, privately, have had much to say.
There is no clue as to when the events in Emma take place but as I set about writing the stories of Mrs Bates, her daughtersand granddaughter in my Highbury Trilogy I felt I needed to place them accurately in time. Lieutenant - later Captain - Weston is active in the militia in the first two books of the trilogy; what conflicts at home and abroad might he have been embroiled in? Well, of course, it depends upon exactlywhen we’re talking about. Angus Fairfax (Jane’s father) enlists as a surgeon; where might he have been posted? It begs the same question. Placing the books in world and British history posed further questions - about social history, for instance; In Mrs Bates of Highbury Mrs Bates is widowed and finds herself penniless. How much - or, how little - money did a person need in 1780s England to survive? The answer, I discovered, was around £50. The Other Miss Batesis set in Brighton - what was it like there, in 1781? I found that it was in the very infancy of its popularity, the health-giving effects of sea-bathing (and seawater drinking) having only just been identified. It would be some years before the Prince Regent made the place into the hub of fashionable society that it would later become.  In Dear JaneFrank Churchill, denied university by his clinging aunt, sets out on a Grand Tour. But my timeline had brought me to around 1814 when the Napoleonic war was still being fought. Travel to Europe would have been impossible so poor Frank has to make do with the Scottish highlands and islands instead.
Jane Austen’s books do seem to take place in something of a bubble; the outside world barely impinges. The drawing rooms and shrubberies, card-parties and country dances are their own world, albeit imbued with exacting standards of behaviour and clearly-defined strata of social hierarchy. At the time at which she was writing their mores would have been well understood and perhaps needed no explanation. To us, however, two hundred years later, they need placing in some wider context and to me, it seemed important to get the details right. Not just because there will inevitably be readers who will be offended by historical inaccuracies and in a hurry to point them out to me, but for the integrity of the books themselves. Any jarring inaccuracies would spoil the illusion which fiction creates. At the same time I had to be true to Miss Austen’s world and to her characters; to tamper with them would have been out of the question. They, for me, provide history of equal importance to any real-world events which may have been taking place just off-stage and I was determined to reflect and incorporate them with the same faithfulness. How successful was I? Well, you, dear reader, must be the judge.
To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Dear Jane, simply click on the link below!
About the Author
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.

She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.

She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners. Most recently she has been working on her Highbury trilogy, books inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma.

She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.

You can contact her via her website at or find her on Facebook.

About the Book
The final instalment of the Highbury trilogy, Dear Jane narrates the history of Jane Fairfax, recounting the events hinted at but never actually described in Jane Austen’s Emma.

Orphaned Jane seems likely to be brought up in parochial Highbury until adoption by her papa’s old friend Colonel Campbell opens to her all the excitement and opportunities of London. The velvet path of her early years is finite, however and tarnished by the knowledge that she must earn her own independence one day.

Frank Weston is also transplanted from Highbury, adopted as heir to the wealthy Churchills and taken to their drear and inhospitable Yorkshire estate. The glimmer of the prize which will one day be his is all but obliterated by the stony path he must walk to claim it.

Their paths meet at Weymouth, and readers of Emma will be familiar with the finale of Jane and Frank’s story. Dear Jane pulls back the veil which Jane Austen drew over their early lives, their meeting in Weymouth and the agony of their secret engagement.