We do something amazing each summer,” says Jeremy Gray, artistic director at Bampton Classical Opera.

“We find a completely forgotten opera from the late 18th century, dust it off, give it a new lease of life, and present it to an enthusiastic audience who may never have even heard of the composer, let alone the piece.

“We really make fascinating discoveries and always entertain and enlighten our grateful audiences.”

While the historic West Oxfordshire village of Bampton is mostly famed for Morris dancing and Downton Abbey, in the opera world its name is synonymous with ambition, professionalism and integrity.

But Jeremy explains how important is the company’s relaxed ethos.

“We’ve never intended to go down the black-tie route,” he says. “We want people to be comfortable and to enjoy the venue, the music and the company.

“By all means dress up if you like, but no-one will mind what you wear.

“We want everyone to feel welcome.”

That welcome explains why tickets are a fraction of what the grander companies charge – it’s worth reflecting on the fact that for every ticket sold, around another £100 has had to be raised from grants and generous donors, a task which grows ever more challenging.

Run for 26 years by Jeremy and his wife and co-Artistic Director Gilly French, the opera takes place in the lovely Deanery Garden adjacent to the grand medieval church at Bampton.

Jeremy says: “The garden makes a glorious setting on an idyllic summer’s evening, with the moon rising and the swifts flying – what a combination with the soaring melodies of 18th century opera, sung by some of the UK’s leading young professionals accompanied by a full orchestra.”

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Bampton’s casting is especially admired by the critics, not only for the quality of voices but also for the energy and wit of their acting.

Bampton has helped launch the careers of many singers who have gone on to perform in the leading opera houses in the UK and abroad.

This summer the choice of opera is typical of Bampton: it’s by Anglo-Italian composer Stephen Storace and was premiered in Vienna in 1785

Originally written in Italian, it’s being sung (as always at Bampton) in an English translation as ‘Bride & Gloom’.

Jeremy muses: “It’s a fascinating work of European significance. Storace became best friends with Mozart in Vienna and his sister, the precociously talented soprano Nancy Storace, created the role of Susanna for Mozart in The Marriage of Figaro, and was one of the highest-paid stars of her age.

“But Figaro was written in 1786 and Mozart had already heard Storace’s opera and cribbed a few ideas from it! Bride & Gloom is a cynical comedy of marital manners, when an ex-affair threatens to destabilise the fragile marriage of a newly-wed couple.

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“Storace was a master of energetic ensembles, piling voices against each other in ever growing textures and speed.”

Despite a first-night disaster, when Nancy lost her voice and broke down on stage, the opera soon became popular in many European cities but it has only received one previous production in the UK.

Storace isn’t as well-known as he deserves, because most of his scores went up in flames in a theatre fire in London – and yet he invented an approach to opera in England which some reckon led eventually to Gilbert and Sullivan.

Jeremy concludes: “Our audience questionnaires always thrill us with their entirely positive comments, and there’s no doubt that we attract and delight many who are unaccustomed to attending opera.

“We’re certainly ‘accessible’ but with no compromise on quality.

Bride & Gloom’ was Storace’s very first opera (he wrote about 20) and is a remarkable Mozartian work you probably won’t ever get the chance to hear anywhere else!”

Bicester Advertiser:

SEE IT: Stephen Storace’s Bride & Gloom (‘Gli sposi malcontenti’) by Bampton Classical Opera is staged tomorrow and Saturday in The Deanery Garden, Bampton.

BOOK: Get tickets at: bamptonopera.org/

DONATE: To mark its 25th birthday last year, the opera launched an appeal with a target of £25,000 to help it continue its mission. Donate online.