The London Festival of Baroque Music (12-20 May) has stars aplenty, and while most events take place at the elegant St John's Smith Square, a handful to watch for are in other venues. Opening with a lunchtime concert and free introductory talk by festival director Lindsay Kemp, the first night concert by the Early Opera Company under Christian Curnyn features two of the best singers in their field today, soprano Lucy Crowe and counter-tenor Tim Mead in music by WF Bach, CPE Bach and others before a performance of Pergolesi's sublime and virtuosic Stabat Mater (12 May).
The distinguished Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and singers Vox Luminis perform the kaleidoscopic Vespers of 1610 by Monteverdi at the end of a day of events (14 May) that opens with a choir workshop for amateur singers.
At Westminster Abbey the abbey choir under James O'Donnell with the orchestra St James Baroque perform the towering and operatic B Minor Mass by JS Bach (16 May), and two fully-fledged music dramas are the closing highlights of the festival.
The first semi-staged performance of Monteverdi's Orfeo – arguably the first opera ever written – is back at St John's Smith Square (18 May), and Handel's moving oratorio Jephtha, in which a father seems bound to sacrifice his daughter, brings the festival to an end (20 May.) The all-star Jephtha cast includes Nick Pritchard in the title role, with Mary Bevan as his daughter Iphis, plus the Holst Singers and Academy of Ancient Music under Stephen Layton.
This Baroque feast, now in its third year, is heir to the Lufthansa Festival that was founded in 1984 by husband and wife team, the conductor Ivor Bolton and historian Tess Knighton, at the start of a golden new era for 17th- and 18th-century music in the capital. It also marks 250 years since the death of Telemann, whose music features throughout. And really, it's not to be missed.
|What||London Festival of Baroque Music, St John's Smith Square|
|Where||St John's Smith Square, 30 Smith Square, London , SW1P 3HF | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Westminster (underground)|
12 May 17 – 20 May 17, 13 events; times vary
|Price||£0 - £50|
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|