OLIVIER Award-winning English Touring Opera (ETO) returns to the Theatre Royal Bath this month to perform two of the most entertaining Venetian baroque operas as the company presents a brand new production of La Calisto by Francesco Cavalli on Monday, October 24 and a revival of its acclaimed staging of Xerxes by George Frideric Handel on Tuesday, October 25.

Venice, the birthplace of opera as we now know it, was a city of fabulous wealth, learning, trade and sensuality. The most fantastic of all its ‘follies’, the marriage of poetry, music and art, is opera. Written for Venetian audiences, Cavalli’s La Calisto was so racy there were reports of opera-goers at the time attending in disguise so as not to be recognised. Whilst Handel turned to the Venetian style to keep his audiences in London entertained with his comedic masterpiece, Xerxes.

Cavalli’s operatic romantic comedy La Calisto irreverently charts the relations between gods, men and women, in a score so rich and heady it must have drawn as many blushes as gasps when first heard. The infatuation of Jove (George Humphreys) with the lovely Calisto (Paula Sides) and the unlikely attraction of virgin Diana (Catherine Carby) to the handsome youth Endymion (Tai Oney) entangle them in love wars as comical as they are dangerous.

ETO’s new production of La Calisto, sung in English, is conducted and directed by Timothy Nelson, and features a collection of continuo instruments. The cast is completed by Nick Pritchard as Mercurio, Adrian Dwyer as Linfea, Katie Bray as Satirino, John-Colyn Gyeantey as Pane, Peter Brathwaite as Silvanno and Susanna Fairbairn as Juno. La Calisto is performed at Bath’s Theatre Royal on Monday 24th October at 7.30pm.

Xerxes, one of ETO’s most warm-hearted and humorous productions of recent years, sees Handel’s astonishing setting of a Venetian text relocated to the Battle of Britain, with the Persian king recast as a glamorous prince-turned-pilot jealous of his brother’s stronger sex appeal. The score is Handel at his best, sometimes fiery and even explosive, at other times deeply touching.

Returning to their original roles are Julia Riley as Xerxes, Clint van der Linde as Arsamenes, Laura Mitchell as Romilda and Andrew Slater as Ariodate, with Peter Brathwaite as Elviro, Carolyn Dobbin as Armastris, and Galina Averina, in her company debut, as Atalanta. Jonathan Peter Kenny conducts the spitfire brilliance of the Old Street Band. Sung in English, Xerxes is directed by James Conway and appears in Bath on Tuesday 25th October at 7.30pm.

ETO will host a Pre-Show Talk before both performances at the Theatre Royal Bath at 6.30pm. Tickets for the Pre-Show Talks, which are free of charge, can be booked via the Box Office.

James Conway, General and Artistic Director of English Touring Opera, commented: “Nothing is so warm, noble and good-humoured as Xerxes and nothing so louche, light and sensual as La Calisto. This season of period opera from Venice comprises the highlights of opera's most brilliant and scandalous, idealistic and funny, irrepressible period. Opera never got better than this!”

Tickets from for ENGLISH TOURING OPERA’s performances at the Theatre Royal Bath are available from the Box Office on 01225 448844 and online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk