<< -- 2 -- Roderic Dunnett MANY PLEASURES
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.
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.
Copyright © 7 August 2001
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK
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