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Every bit as worthwhile was Holland Park's scintillating staging of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) -- an absolutely stunningly directed revisiting of the 1911 Met classic, its vibrant mostly male cast conducted magnificently here by John Gibbons, which confirmed just how solidly -- despite its Annie Oakley-style single woman's role (what a magnificent one, too, with Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs as a terrifically convincing Minnie courted by the vocally glorious Ravil Atlas as robber Dick Johnson) -- this educational 'Western' (dubbed by The Independent's Edward Seckerson 'a five-handkerchief opera') deserves to hold its own not just alongside, but, as Rodney Milnes's extended programme note made clear, atop the Puccini canon.
Ravil Atlas as Dick Johnson and Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs as Minnie in Opera Holland Park's staging of 'La Fanciulla del West'
Although not all Holland Park's offerings make an equal mark, they have excelled of late -- with L'Arlesiana, Adriana Lecouvreur (with Rosalind Plowright), and with a well-marshalled, finely imaginative Pagliacci and Fidelio. This summer's Norma staging was hailed as a triumph; the Luisa Miller direction as something less, though this terrific early Verdi was uplifted by both Peter Robinson, who conducted last year's Fidelio, and the City of London Sinfonia (replacing the very serviceable Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), with Anne Sophie Duprels memorable in the title role. The Holland Park stagings that really succeed -- and there have been many recently -- have turned West London's parkland venue, with its courageous and imaginative programming, into not just a metropolitan but a national treasure.
Two scenes from Opera Holland Park's production of Bellini's 'Norma'. Left: Nelly Miricioiu (Norma) and Diana Montague (Adalgisa); Right: Diana Montague, Nelly Miricioiu and Don Bernadini
Copyright © 8 August 2004
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK