Two years ago, Odyssey Opera was founded with the goal of presenting operas that pushed the genre into undiscovered territory by presenting lesser-known masterpieces and new works in a variety of formats and venues. Starting tonight, the company concludes its British Invasion: A Festival of English Musical Dramas—a monthlong series of operas by British composers—with the contemporary opera Powder Her Face, which chronicles the libidinous life of England’s Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, a tabloid fixture from the 1930s through the 1960s.
Composed by Thomas Adès and with a libretto by Philip Hensher, the darkly comic chamber opera challenges audiences to reexamine gender politics and social convention in the context of one of Britain’s most controversial public figures.
Campbell’s many dalliances earned her the title of “the Dirty Duchess,” most infamously during her divorce from the Duke of Argyll in 1963. Suspecting her of infidelity, the duke launched an investigation that resulted in the discovery of a set of salacious Polaroid photographs, much to the delight of Britain’s gossip rags and an insatiable public.
Starring soprano Patricia Schuman as the duchess and supported by a cast of accomplished singers, Powder Her Face advances Odyssey Opera’s pursuit of staging compelling but not well-known operas. First staged in England in 1995, Adès’ opera asks audiences to question what to make of the duchess. Was there more behind all the marriages, divorces, and sexual exploits? You decide.
Odyssey Opera will perform Powder Her Face tonight, Thursday, June 18, through Saturday, June 20, at the Boston Conservatory, 31 Hemenway St., Boston, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $100 and can be purchased here or by calling 617-826-1626. Find a list of upcoming Odyssey Opera productions here. Take any Green Line trolley to Hynes Convention Center.
Michelle Marino can be reached at email@example.com.