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Ensemble

Revisiting with Pleasure

Summer at Longborough Festival Opera,
enjoyed by RODERIC DUNNETT

 

Longborough Festival Opera is one of those companies one revisits with pleasure time and again. The atmosphere both outside and inside this friendly Cotswold venue is highly congenial. The agreeable balance between patrons who like to dress up formally and those who prefer to stay informal, those who dine and those who picnic, makes neither group feel ill at ease; and the views towards distant Oxfordshire across the Vale of Evesham make a summer evening there utterly beguiling. All the more relaxing, too, with the knowledge that the threat of a Value Added Tax backlog that had been ominously (and unfairly) hanging over the company had finally been vanquished.

Maria Soulis's Carmen teases the soldiery. Photo © 2006 Stephen Wright
Maria Soulis's Carmen teases the soldiery. Photo © 2006 Stephen Wright

Longborough's management has consistently shown skill and flair in its casting. Who but the wily Martin Graham would have had the ingenuity and wit to lure Sir Donald McIntyre, for countless seasons uncontested Laird of Bayreuth, back to his most acclaimed role of Wotan? Touch wood, the great New Zealand-born baritone will be appearing again in a brand new staging of Rhinegold next season. Jenny Miller, who made her name as the Longborough Ring's capable Brünnhilde and who sang the Witch in last year's scintillating Hansel and Gretel, this year joined the production team, providing the set designs for Alan Privett's spicy, handsomely attired new staging of Carmen.

Chorus antics - Bizet's cigarette girls add spice to Act 1 of 'Carmen'. Photo © 2006 Stephen Wright
Chorus antics - Bizet's cigarette girls add spice to Act 1 of 'Carmen'. Photo © 2006 Stephen Wright

Singers who have made a marked impact on this Cotswold stage include Maria Soulis (who was this season's Carmen), Julian Close, who this year sang the Commendatore in Longborough's Don Giovanni, a production which included the splendid Simone Sauphanor in the role of Donna Anna, and the pliant, much in demand Riccardo Simonetti in the title role as the dastardly Don.

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Copyright © 8 October 2006 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK

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