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Ensemble

Female insurgence

RODERIC DUNNETT visits Garsington Opera
for a feast of Mozart, Rossini and rare Janácek

 

Garsington Opera has its base in the Jacobean home, outside Oxford, of Leonard Ingrams. There for the past two decades Ingrams has surmounted initial local opposition to stage, al fresco, three full-length operas each summer between May and July.

Early on Garsington made its name with a series of rare Haydn; latterly with Schumann (Genoveva), Strauss (Daphne, Die Liebe der Danae, Intermezzo) and now, Janácek. It must surely have Schubert in its sights; it could do worse than have a look at Lortzing, just past his bicentenary with nary a nod.

Tom Erik Lie (Don Giovanni) heads for the flames in Garsington Opera's latest production of 'Don Giovanni'. Photo: Keith Saunders
Tom Erik Lie (Don Giovanni) heads for the flames in Garsington Opera's latest production of 'Don Giovanni'. Photo: Keith Saunders

This year saw not three but four generally strong productions. First came a very serviceable Don Giovanni, with Robert Poulton's buoyant Leporello considerably more Don-like than his master, Tom Erik Lie (the same was true of Nicholas Todorovic, the Leporello in English Touring Opera's Don Giovanni last season). Lie's urbane Strauss lookalike in last year's Intermezzo was unforgettable, but his Giovanni seemed more likely to whisk a wench round to his family pile for a chamber music soiree than for a sexual romp.

Tom Erik Lie in the title role with Emma Bell (Donna Elvira) in Garsington Opera's production of 'Don Giovanni'. Photo: Keith Saunders
Tom Erik Lie in the title role with Emma Bell (Donna Elvira) in Garsington Opera's production of 'Don Giovanni'. Photo: Keith Saunders

Poulton's characterful voice and penetrating acting made sufficient impact at Stowe Opera (as Eugene Onegin, or as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor) and Garsington (the title role in Falstaff) for him to be snapped up by English National Opera (including a highly effective character role in David Sawer's From Morning to Midnight) and the Royal Opera. He is much in demand on the continent : this is a career patently on the move. So is that of Emma Bell, fresh from touring (with Robin Blaze) as Glyndebourne's Rodelinda : Bell's Donna Elvira -- Mozart added her slightly imbalancing big aria, 'Mi tradi', for Salieri's pupil Katharina Cavalieri when Don Giovanni progressed from Prague to Vienna -- provided the real show stopper.

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Copyright © 4 October 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

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