On consecutive days last weekend I was privileged to be in the audience for performances of two operas I had never previously seen. They were I Puritani, by Vincenzo Bellini, which Grange Park Opera is giving at its incomparably beautiful headquarters in rural Hampshire, and Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, from Welsh National Opera, at the Wales Millennium Centre, in Cardiff.

Neither of these can be considered obscure; it is just that they are not often staged. In the case of the Wagner, as the Sunday Times’s Hugh Canning pointed out in the course of a laudatory review this week, there had not been a production outside London for more than 40 years.

One wonders if political correctness might have something to do with this: though the work is packed with glorious music — some of it, like the Wedding March, very famous — its notoriety as Adolf Hitler’s favourite opera (alleged) counts against it. Besides this, as WNO Music Director Lothar Koenigs points out in the programme, Wagner’s libretto “uses several words which have been irreparably tainted by their prominent use under the Nazi regime”. These are ‘Sieg’, ‘Heil’ and ‘Führer’ which, says (the German) Koenigs, “is now almost completely barred from contemporary German speech”.

WNO’s production, which is sensationally conducted by Koenigs, certainly demonstrates the opera’s stunning appeal. The Act III trumpet fanfares, performed from four boxes in the auditorium — one of which housed The Prince of Wales on the gala opening night — are jaw-droppingly wonderful. There are further performances in Cardiff on Saturday and from June 13-15 closer to home at Birmingham Hippodrome (wno.org.uk).

It would be hard to imagine a more fitting British contribution to the composer’s bicentenary, except perhaps the three full performances of the Ring cycle taking place from June 16 on our doorstep at Longborough Festival Opera, based near Moreton-in-Marsh.

Grange Park Opera, a mere hour’s drive from Oxford, has been popular with our local opera lovers since it was set up in 1997 by the indefatigable and charismatic St Hilda’s music graduate Wasfi Kani. I found not a few old friends among the audience last Friday for the first performance of I Puritani.

We were treated to a musically accomplished account of an opera which, in this case, was a favourite of Queen Victoria. Three days before its British premiere at the King’s Theatre on May 21, 1835, it was previewed in a private concert at Kensington Palace to mark the then Princess Victoria’s 16th birthday. Ever afterwards she was to refer to it as “the dear Puritani”.

Though it is set during the Civil War period, with its heroine Elvira driven doolally by the apparent elopement of her fiancé with Charles I’s widow, Queen Henrietta Maria, the GPO director Stephen Langridge has chosen to garb some of his characters in dress contemporary with the time of its writing. This results in some members of the female members of the chorus (see above) looking uncannily like the young Victoria.

Wagner, incidentally, was anti-Bellini, calling his music “insipid and threadbare”, but he returned to him in later life.

For details of Grange Park’s season, which also includes a rare production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites, go to the website, grangeparkopera.co.uk