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Ensemble

Verging on London standards

RODERIC DUNNETT visits Dorset and Stowe Opera
for productions of 'Norma' and 'Don Carlo'

 

Dorset and Stowe Opera are among the finest regional opera companies in Britain. Both perform a sterling service by staging relatively traditional-style, approachable opera during August just when the main UK opera venues (Glyndebourne and Edinburgh apart) are closed down. Each handles mainstream repertoire with confidence, performs in the original language (although the lack of surtitles can be an obstacle), and fields a capable, disciplined orchestra. Both are unafraid to make sorties into rarer repertoire (Dvorák's Rusalka, Carlos Gomes's Salvator Rosa) with marked success, courageously taking their audience with them, as a truly enterprising company must. Both have nurtured rising new talent, faced the difficulties of balancing heavy budgets and emerged unfazed and triumphant. These are first-class companies.

Patrick Shelley (foreground) rehearses Norma for Dorset Opera. Photo : Ikon Studios, Sherborne
Patrick Shelley (foreground) rehearses Norma for Dorset Opera. Photo : Ikon Studios, Sherborne

This season Dorset Opera (based in Sherborne, conveniently accessible from the south-west-bound A303) staged Bellini's Norma. Having just returned from some fairly mixed-bag Italian opera performances at the home of Rossini, Pesaro, one was ready armed with comparisons. Musically, Dorset won hands down.

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Copyright © 1 December 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

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