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Stowe's Rusalka proved a production of some stature. The basic stage concept was strong : massive green pendants, admirably constructed and moving soundlessly (Stowe's technical director, Ian McKillop, was the capable designer), formed a reedy poolside that alternated (well, nearly) from depressing purple-greens (for Jezibaba, the witch) to more optimistic turquoise-blues. Very occasionally these stalactites obstructed -- although much less than in many higher-budget productions featuring comparable devices. Stage darkness was a greater problem : rather sporadic lighting served the grotto feel well, but contrived to cast even sunnier moments -- and there are more than this production let on -- in shadow. A similar problem beset Scottish Opera's production of Dvorák's Jacobin (though not their aerated Dalibor) a few seasons ago : the 'idea' looked good; in the end it dominated excessively.

Robert Secret has tracked down at least one outstanding voice here, and a clutch of very good ones. His star performer is the Water Sprite (or Water Goblin) -- Rusalka's father, and her conscience -- to whom Julian Close brings a bass of massive dimensions.

Julian Close as Rusalka's father, the Water Goblin in Robin Martin Oliver's new production for Stowe Opera of Dvorák's 'Rusalka', designed by Ian McKillop. © John Credland LBIPP 2001

Close has already impressed at the Royal Northern College, where his Pistol (in Falstaff) and Dad (Mark-Anthony Turnage's Greek) revealed a meaty lower range and a gift for powerful caricature. He cuts effortlessly through the orchestra, wooing the audience with every word (or woe), freeing Secret to give full vent to the marvellous music Dvorák reserves for him (an echo of his youthful Wagner obsession, gained as an operatic viola player under Smetana's baton), and featuring the whole gamut from Lohengrin to Parsifal, subsumed into his own distinctive late 1890s musical language.

Members of the Court with Marie Vassiliou (Foreign Princess) and David Watkin-Holmes (Prince) in Act II of Dvorák's 'Rusalka', designed by Ian McKillop. © John Credland LBIPP 2001


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Copyright © 7 August 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK





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