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<<  -- 2 --  Roderic Dunnett    RARE STRAUSS


Arguably the best moment of David Fielding's essentially well-conceived but visually rocky, uneven production was (with a conscious echo of his magical coup-de-théâtre at the end of Daphne) the ending : an ample, Rhinegoldish ring frames the couple, attired once more in wedding garb as if for a gushing wedding photo : the relationship has been reforged.

So right was this finale one could forgive the visually rocky remainder. As before, Fielding designed it himself, and rightly took his cue from Strauss's own delicious irony (after all, the composer names his main character Storch (='Stork'), a pure parody of his own name (='Ostrich')). But his design sense, and perhaps even more the poverty of construction, stoops to year nine standard -- delighting neither the eye nor, frankly, the intellect : Strauss himself at the l924 première (the libretto dates from as early as l9l7) took great pains over the set. Fielding's hardboard-looking, conifer-strewn snow backdrop was as deliberately but needlessly cheap (a child's nineteenth century toy theatre could have done better) as the not-so-funny gimmicks (the audience found them giggle-worthy) tugged up and down its apex : like a hyperactive Achim Freyer (the famously finnicky German producer-designer) at his least persuasive.

The hilarious moment where windows flop open and the house becomes a (two-way) train had, however, the ring of vintage, on-form Fielding. Elsewhere half-bitten gestures, undeveloped ideas, distinctly clumsy prop moving and mindless pantomime (contrasting with the witty punch of Jonathan Burton's crisp surtitles) made direction and conception look at best amateurish ('natural'? well....maybe). The kitsch ball scene grew repetitive; the storm was pathetic. The opening 'packing' scene, a canny forestate of Frau Storch's forthcoming walkout, was stylishly acted. But all at the expense of the overture. Yet Fielding's choice of 1920s costumes was classic, and his inspired moments included an interlude which appears to emerge from a horn gramophone (rather moving) and Storch's final occupation of his neglected chair at the close, which -- thus delayed -- was a touch of genius.

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Copyright © 2 August 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK




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