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Medcalf orchestrated the various dramatic comings and goings of Act 3 in a believable and lively manner, making the culminating final scene credible even if still sentimental. His designer, Francis O'Connor, even managed to make Minnie and Dick Johnson walk off into the sunset, no mean feat on Grange Park Opera's little stage.

Conductor Rory Macdonald is still relatively young but already has an impressive roster of performances on his CV. On this showing he is definitely a talent to watch. He drew a fine, polished performance from the English Chamber Orchestra, and ensured that even the loudest moments were balanced. He obviously knows and cares for this score and made his musicians do likewise. It is not that long ago that reviewers had to excuse the rather variable performances coming from the Grange Park Opera pit but with performances like these there are no excuses necessary.

I must also commend the hard working chorus which delivered a superb ensemble performance, and neatly delineated the various characters in the miner's camp. This piece is almost as much a chorus piece as an orchestral one. The choruses have obviously worked hard this year and this showed in their polished performance. My only complaint was the rather uneasy mixture of Italian and English in the libretto, with the English words in the Italian libretto being given with a generally English accent. This brought home that communication in this piece is essential and I rather wished that the piece had been done in English. It would be good to hear The Girl of the Golden West delivered to crisp communicative English!

This year's trio of operas from Grange Park has shown a consistency and high standard of execution that has sometimes been lacking in previous years. Wasfi Kani's programming is always interesting, after all next year she has Norma, The Cunning Little Vixen and Cavalli's Eliogabolo planned. But if GPO continues to build on this year's standards then the annual pilgrimage to operatic Hampshire will be exciting indeed.

Copyright © 26 June 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK



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