Scandalous duchess returns home for one-night only

Chatsworth’s most controversial mistress returned to the stately home in triumph for a one-night only performance – more than 200 years after her death.

Georgiana, who scandalised and fascinated Georgian high society in equal measure while married to the Fifth Duke of Devonshire, took to the stage in Chatsworth’s private theatre for a sneak preview of  Buxton International Festival’s world premiere of the opera which takes her name.

It’s a tale of scandal given the Hollywood touch in Keira Knightley’s film The Duchess – a lover shared with her husband, kisses for votes in a general election and gambling debts of £66 million in today’s money.

The unique show in the theatre, which is rarely open to the public, was organised by the Friends of the Festival, who raise funds for the event which celebrates its 40th anniversary in July this year.

The lyrics for Georgiana were written by the Festival’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Williams, who has also created operas about the lives of famous figures including Nelson Mandela and the Buddha in a career which saw him work with Cape Town Opera for 29 years.

The Chatsworth performance featured highlights from Georgiana, which uses the soundtrack from the Duchess’s life with music written during the period by Mozart, Paisiello, Soler, Linley and Storace in what the Italians call a pasticcio, or “pie”, opera which was all the rage in Georgian times

“It’s going to be a tasty treat for opera-goers, as the music brings the story of one of Derbyshire’s most famous characters to life,” said Michael, who introduced the event which included a champagne reception, buffet and tour of the House for the Friends.

“This performance shows the value of becoming a member of the Friends,” said the group’s Events Organiser Joan Matthews.

“To make raising money for the Festival exciting, we aim to create unique events in unusual venues, which in the past has included bringing musicians into museums, fortified medieval houses and the country house where Agatha Christie wrote many of her detective stories.”

Rising Australian singer Samantha Lyn Clarke will play Georgiana in the Festival which runs from July 5 to 21, and features opera, music, books and debates with some of the UK’s leading politicians and thinkers.

Pictured: Samantha Clarke as Georgiana in Chatsworth alongside the portrait of the Duchess she plays in the opera   .