<< -- 2 -- Peter Dickinson A STUNNING MASTERPIECE
The Grand Duchess is a central figure since she makes a dramatic entry (after a fully worked-out fugue to panic in the kitchen) and finally urges the couple towards betrothal. She also pays the bills which the errand boy, Richard Wheeldon, had been insistently presenting. Madeleine Shaw looked young as the Duchess but she could make her presence felt.
Above all, this group of young singers was brilliantly directed by Alastair Boag, Alastair Tighe and their production team with no weak links and countless subtle touches in the acting. Oliver Gooch conducted a thoroughly intelligent reading of the score utterly attuned to the action on stage. A fine kitchen set too.
All this made The Wandering Scholar a rare late curiosity in Holst's output but -- also in a kitchen setting -- an ingenious curtain-raiser for the Berkeley. Lorina Gore, as the farmer's naughty wife, was memorably sexy and pretty. Peter van Hulle, as the impoverished scholar, was serious and dour and so was James McOran-Campbell as the farmer. James Robinson was realistic as the lecherous priest although his paunch was rather high. The production lacked the inspired inevitability of the Berkeley but look out for more from Opera East.