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The opera opened with the young Mark playing with the young Strephon; Mark's bouncing of another small sky blue ball signalled the start of the opera's musical score, crisply conducted by Richard Hickox. The young people, Mark and Jenifer's friends, were sung by a significantly extended Royal Opera House chorus; this large group made a wonderful, rich sound and entered into the production with a will. Not all the chorus members were young, but the group made an inventive tapestry against which the protagonists played out their drama. Only when the atmosphere got a little more erotic did the stage action get faintly embarrassing, but this is often the case and not a problem particular to this production. I am not sure that Tippett's complex vocal lines are at their best when sung by a chorus brought up on Wagner and Verdi, but the Royal Opera House Chorus did very well balancing the complex lines even if they did not achieve the ultimate in transparency.

Will Hartman as Mark and Amanda Roocroft as Jenifer in 'The Midsummer Marriage'. Photo © 2005 Bill Cooper
Will Hartman as Mark and Amanda Roocroft as Jenifer in 'The Midsummer Marriage'. Photo © 2005 Bill Cooper

Mark was played by tenor Will Hartman; Hartman is a young German who numbers both Froh and Tamino amongst his roles. Though he still sings lyric tenor repertoire, his voice is no longer that of a lyric tenor, in fact it reminded me of the young Alberto Remedios. This is not as surprising as it sounds, as Remedios played Mark in the 1968 Covent Garden production; the recording of this production, conducted by Colin Davis, was the one from which I first learned the opera. Like Remedios, Hartman's voice has an attractive, rather grainy quality which probably presages bigger roles.

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Copyright © 13 November 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK

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