Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller

 

<<  -- 2 --  Roderic Dunnett    FEMALE INSURGENCE

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Tenor Finnur Bjarnason, stepping in for Paul Nilon, gave a beautifully poised, refined and sophisticated performance as Don Ottavio. Bjarnason would be ideal for launching outside Scandinavia some of those rarely heard Danish operas that have too long lain outside the common repertoire -- C E F Weyse, for instance (the Denmark-based Kuhlau is another). He is the sort of singer whose grace makes you feel the courtly exchanges of Rosenkavalier could be done with male voices. Steuart Bedford nursed each of the key ensembles to good effect; interestingly, I found the Garsington sound first-rate -- by no means always the case -- and better balanced from the cheaper seats at the back : possibly a useful tip.

Another singer with a solo career surprisingly and belatedly on the move is the former BBC Singer, bass Brindley Sherratt : a slightly too restrained Commendatore, whose impact was much reduced by his having visibly to mount his plinth at the start of the final rencontre, but the most urbane, almost Hans Sachsian figure as the boozy farmer Fabrizio, presiding with his dominating wife Lucia (Carole Wilson) over Rossini's The Thieving Magpie (La gazza ladra), which dates from one of Rossini's greatest periods, 1816-17.

Majella Cullagh (Ninetta) in Garsington Opera's production of 'La gazza ladra'. Photo: Keith Saunders
Majella Cullagh (Ninetta) in Garsington Opera's production of 'La gazza ladra'. Photo: Keith Saunders

Majella Cullagh played the heroine -- part Leonora (her Jacobin father is wrongfully accused), part Florestan (she herself faces unjust execution) and mezzo-soprano Nerys Jones grasped the show by the nettle as the vivacious, cheeky trousers-role Pippo. Mark Wilde and Simon Edwards, two delightful tenor voices, doubled the wavering affianced Giannetto. Christopher Purves narrowly skirted making the Podesta (vengeful village mayor) too much of a comic-strip blackguard (this is, after all, partly an escape opera in the vein of Fidelio : but Purves' vocal command of bad-man coloratura, whether in Gluck, Mozart or Verdi, gains in resonance and impressiveness.

Nerys Jones (Pippo) in Garsington Opera's production of 'La gazza ladra'. Photo: Keith Saunders
Nerys Jones (Pippo) in Garsington Opera's production of 'La gazza ladra'.
Photo: Keith Saunders

The Magpie's undoubted charm was capped by one of the nicest closing directorial touches by Daniel Slater, the silent Magpie's final swoop of triumph, with the enchanting, manipulative Hannah Richards (doubling in magpie black-and-white with Phoebe Ruscombe-King) celebrating a happy outcome with a delicious swoop. David Parry and his orchestral players made the score breathe, instrumental touches shiver and the full-blooded choruses swing right from Rossini's resplendently built opening bars.

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Copyright © 4 October 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

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