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RODERIC DUNNETT samples a Garsington speciality


Rare Strauss is a Garsington speciality. Three very contrasted operas from the end of his long career - Daphne, in an unforgettable pastoral staging with a stunning tableau at the close, a finessed Die Liebe der Danae, with vivid stellar backdrop and a swashbuckling Jovian performance from Peter Coleman-Wright, plus Die Aegyptische Helena -- all full to the gills with rapturous music and admirably directed by David Fielding -- have delighted the eye and ear alike in this Oxfordshire garden over recent seasons. Another (as yet unspecified) late Straussian treat is promised by Garsington's owner-impresario Leonard Ingrams, though next summer will be the turn of Janácek. And this year, once more under the enabling baton of Elgar Howarth, came Intermezzo, very much a l920s causerie piece charting (symphony aside) new Strauss territory and armed with, as his biographer Michael Kennedy avers, some of the most ravishing music Strauss ever wrote.

Yvonne Kenny as Christine in the Garsington Opera 2001 production of 'Intermezzo'. Photo (c) 2001 Keith Saunders

Intermezzo is the classic opera domestica, a sort of Così fan tutte updated to Edward Albee, with a concision and satirical bite akin to those undervalued Strauss contemporaries, d'Albert and von Schillings. It centres on a couple's tiff based on an actual anecdote from Strauss's marriage : an unknown woman sends the husband (apparently) a not exactly innocent come-on note; the wife opens it in his absence ('travelling' is part of the fun of this production) and scents a liaison. She prepares to leave him. Luckily a friend of similar name reveals a case of mistaken identity. The pair is reconciled, and marriage wins out.

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Copyright © 2 August 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK




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