All posts by Albert Ehrnrooth

GRUBEROVA REIGNS ONCE MORE IN MUNICH

ROBERTO DEVEREUX by GAETANO DONIZETTI  Libretto: Salvatore Cammarano

Bayerische Staatsoper, seen at the Nationaltheater in Munich, 15th of July 2015

BQueen Elizabeth I salutes her rival the Duchess of Nottingham
Queen Elizabeth I salutes her rival the Duchess of Nottingham © Wilfried Hösl

Age is no hindrance, when you are singing. Placido Domingo is 74 years old and has during the last decade gone from tenor roles, to transposing passages down a note or two, to baritone roles that don’t quite suit his voice.

The coloratura legend Edita Gruberova is 69 years old but she makes no compromises. She still goes hell for leather in major roles in operas by Bellini and Donizetti. As a matter of fact, according to Gruberova’s website, she is booked well into 2017 to appear in the major opera houses of Vienna, Tokyo and Munich in productions of Anna Bolena Norma and Lucrezia Borgia.

At the Bavarian State Opera in Munich she now and then makes a very welcome appearance as Elisabetta (Queen Elizabeth I) in Donizetti’s ‘tragedia lirica’ Roberto Devereux. It is clearly one of Gruberova’s signature roles and after seeing her in action I can understand why she is still at it.

Christof Loy’s staging from 2004 depicts the corridors of power in Westminister as a pretty shabby place in need of some freshening up. Sara’s private apartments are no more luxurious. The Duchess of Nottingham lives behind plexiglass screens that are scratchier than a London Underground train. Yes, this is reminiscent of the London I knew in the early 80s, before the property boom.

When Elisabetta (Gruberova) is about to show some steel and sentence her young favourite Deveruex to death, she appears dressed as the Iron Lady in turquoise skirt and jacket with matching beige handbag.

Whenever the choir makes an entrance in the Palace (of Westminster) there is also that distinct whiff of the 80s with the men and women dressed as your typical civil servants, butlers and domestic servants. But here is a missed opportunity, as Roberto Devereux (or the Earl of Essex) is not dressed as your stereotypical ‘Essex or even Mondeo man’. It is a small, perhaps irrelevant detail that probably would only have been picked up by a British audience

But most importantly there is some excellent singing.

There is only one disappointment. The Siberian tenor Alexey Dolgov as Devereux sounded rather dull, made no impression in the cabalettas, but acted his pants off. You can see and hear why Sonia Ganassi continues to be hired as Deveruex’s secret lover Sara  by many of the world’s best opera houses. She can be both intensely passionate and love-torn tender. Equally impressive is her husband, the jealous and spiteful Duke of Nottingham (Franco Vassallo). Vassallo is another one, I must admit, of these wonderful Italian baritones that I haven’t encountered before on my operatic travels. Vassallo portrays his character with gusto and his deeply rounded voice makes full use of the open and clear cut vowels that his mother tongue provides.

The odd thing about this opera is that there are many duets but only rarely do the protagonists sing together.

The Slovak soprano Edita Gruberova thrives on her own and is, despite her age, still a force to be reckoned with.  Gruberova was for many years the reigning Queen of the Night and perhaps after Beverly Sills the finest Tudor Queen in Donizetti’s trilogy Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux.

Elisabetta (Edita Gruberova) manages a hair raising situation
Elisabetta (Edita Gruberova) manages a hair raising situation © Wilfried Hösl

But whereas Mrs Sills declared that taking on Elisabetta in Roberto Deveruex had shortened her career by at least four years, the same role has probably lengthened Gruberova’s life on stage.

Her voice has now lost lustre on the top notes, but she makes up for some of that by totally inhabiting the role from start to finish. It is all there: first the affection she shows Devereux, then the anger, the cold hearted death sentence, followed by doubt, the realisation that she has made a mistake, the blame she puts on the Nottinghams and finally the grief – Gruberova makes it all seem very believable. I guess she could manage the notoriously difficult final scene purely on technique, but this singer has no intention of coasting. She gives the aria ‘Quel sangue versato’ the full whack, and some. The very final Bs and the high D don’t come off and turn into a kind of wail. But it doesn’t matter because Elisabetta has gone mad with sorrow and on her knees hands the power to her nephew, King James VI of Scotland.

Edita Gruberova received a standing ovation and much credit should also go to the conductor Friedrich Haider. He actually re-discovered the score of Roberto Devereux. Although hardly a masterpiece, this is a perfectly dramatic opera, provided all the main roles are sang convincingly.

This production of Roberto Devereux remains on the repertoire and if you value strong acting, you have to see Edita Gruberova as Elisabetta before she passes on her coloratura crown.

ARABELLA’S ARCHAIC SMILE WINS HEARTS

ARABELLA by R. Strauss/H. von Hofmannsthal

Seen at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich 14/07/2015

Arabella (Anja Harteros) and her sister in breeches (Hanna-Elisabeth Müller)  photo:Wilfried Hösl
Arabella (Anja Harteros) and her sister in breeches (Hanna-Elisabeth Müller) photo:Wilfried Hösl

I have been racking my brain for a couple of days now, but I am pretty sure it is called an ‘archaic smile’. Anja Harteros’s lips are turned up only slightly, but enough to suggest a smile. You can see the same rather flat, but ambivalent expression in Greek stone figures of young naked youths from the 6th century BCE, the so called kouroi. Little did I know, until I wrote this piece, that Anja Harteros, actually is half-Greek.

Not only does Anja Harteros do the non-committal expression rather well, she sings the title role of Arabella effortlessly in a production that is superb all around.

Arabella knows the score photo: Wilfried Hösl
Arabella knows the score photo: Wilfried Hösl

The Bavarian State Opera’s new production of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Arabella is musically almost as sound as it gets. Very strong singing and acting from virtually all the main characters. As a singer you could hardly wish for a better orchestra in the pit and a more attentive conductor than the Swiss maestro Philippe Jordan. Act one is dramatically weak, probably due to the fact that von Hofmannsthal died 4 years before the premiere and didn’t have the opportunity to fine-tune the libretto. Particularly acts two and three are staged very effectively by director Andreas Dresen, helped by the most dramatic and symbolic staircase(s) you will ever have seen on stage (reminiscent of the’ stairways to heaven’ in classic Hollywood musicals). The set is designed by Mathias Fischer-Dieskau whose father was a much-praised Mandryka half a century ago. The orgy after the Coachman’s ball that takes place on the stairs and in the stairwell is not irrelevant but perhaps a bit distracting. I literally nearly lost the plot, I was so busy looking at the half-naked goings-on in the background.

Sinful and symbolic stairs photo: Wilfried Hösl
Sinful and symbolic stairs photo: Wilfried Hösl

But seriously, I think the director has managed to find the right socio-political balance throughout. To set the action during the time that Strauss premiered the opera (in 1933) is a logical move. In the early years of the Nazi Party’s rule Strauss was quite happy to support their culturally restrictive and anti-Semitic directives. Yes, Richard Strauss must have recognised himself in the opportunist that Arabella so clearly is.

Arabella’s aristocratic family counts on her to help them out of their financial dire straits by simply marrying the wealthiest of her many suitors. She is perfectly confident to wait until the right man comes along. She shows very little empathy for her little sister Zdenka who runs her errands and has to dress in men’s clothing because their pathetic father, Count Waldner, can’t afford to buy her the kind of clothes that a woman of her status should wear.

Before Arabella then decides to fall in love with Mandryka (Thomas J. Mayer) she makes sure that he is wealthy enough to support the family. She is not at all concerned about the fact that he seems to have picked her mainly for her looks. Neither does it seem to bother her that he is boorish and jealous. His determined (over-my-dead-body) mentality is quite typical of the new master race that will terrorize the world during the following 12 years.

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Mandryka and Fiakermillli do some serious exercising Photo: Wilfried Hösl

Surely Strauss’s frequent use of waltzes is meant ironically. And yes, there are many things about this opera that are reminiscent of Der Rosenkavalier, but it certainly isn’t second rate ‘The Knight of the Rose, part II’. No, this opera, unlike Rosenkavalier is all about money,  money and how to get it. Arabella quickly forgives Mandryka’s resentful and brusque behaviour, when she remembers how rich he is. Arabella also heartlessly fails to defend her sister Zdenka when she is in a spot of bother at the very end. Arabella is just concerned with catching the man who can pay for the lifestyle that she thinks she deserves.

Don’t be fooled by the musically lightweight passages with waltzes and sentimental flair. Scratch the surface and you will find some very fine orchestral scoring. Strauss cleverly intertwines the various ‘leitmotifs’ that accompany both Mandryka and Arabella.’ Und du wirst mein Gebieter sein’ says it all and Harteros and Mayer manage to take romanticism to the hilt. Anaja Harteros seems to just float up to the top notes.

Arabella wonders if this is the man for her? Photo:  Wilfried Hösl
Arabella wonders if this is the man for her? Photo: Wilfried Hösl

 

Towards the end, after Mandryka has shown himself to be an irascible hot head, Harteros almost convinces us that Arabella has chosen love over money. But there is a giveaway at the very end when Arabella offers Mandryka (Thomas Mayer) a glass of water as a symbol of betrothal (according to his Croatian custom). Harteros approaches Mayer with her archaic smile and you expect a loving embrace, but instead she flicks the water in his face.

The plot is fairly basic and von Hofmannsthal would surely have wanted to improve some scenes, had he lived a bit longer. That said, some of the libretto’s entanglements and intricacies Strauss’s favourite composer Mozart and his librettist Da Ponte would have been proud of.

Count Waldner (Kurt Rydl) is skint but funny. Photo: Wilfried Hösl
Count Waldner (Kurt Rydl) is skint but funny. Photo: Wilfried Hösl

The ‘mega bass’ Kurt Rydl is excellent as Count Waldner, whose middle name seems to be failure. Von Hofmannsthal wanted to create a commedia dell’arte figure and Rydl achieves that in every sense. Hanna-Elisabeth Müller is totally convincing in the breeches role and actually quite delectable as Zdenka. Mandryka does have to win our hearts as well. Not easy, considering that he is blunt, pathologically jealous and threatens to get very physical with both sexes. He disturbs bears, openly flirts with the Fiakermilli, and dresses like a Nazi. On top of that the stage director seems to suggest that his helpers are members of the Gestapo. The baritone Thomas J Mayer’s looks are ideally suited to the role, he is a solid actor and his voice is strong and dark, as required. Despite the character’s unpleasant traits Mayer manages to make Mandryka quite likeable.

The libretto and some of the staging is genuinely amusing and the man sat next to me was chuckling throughout the performance. His wife (or perhaps his lover?) would every now and then squeeze his hand and waltz with it on the arm rest.

Arabella was premiered at this year’s Munich Opera Festival but will remain on the repertoire next season. It is well worthwhile to make a detour to Munich’s Nationaltheater to see this production.

 

THE BEST OPERATIC HAIRCUT AROUND

SAMSON ET DALILA by CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS
Seen at Grange Park Opera June 24, 2015

Samson et Dalila -Samson (Carl Tanner) Dalila (Sara Fulgoni) © Robert Workman
Samson (Carl Tanner)  and Dalila (Sara Fulgoni) contemplating what haircut to get © Robert Workman

The story, taken from the Book of Judges, about a classic haircut is well-known. We are all familiar with that sinking feeling and loss of potency after a horrific hair makeover. But in the face of defeat Samson, just like the composer Camille Saint-Saëns, found strength and ultimately victory. Come to think of it, Samson is one of history’s first suicide bombers and his self-destructive act appeared to have God’s blessing. What the Lord made of Saint-Saëns’s opera on the subject is not known, but its success lay for a long time in the balance.

Grange Park Opera’s new production of Samson et Delila contains some powerful singing and a very good orchestra to boot.

Why did Camille Saint-Saëns devote so much time to creating this work? Many of his most famous compositions seem effortlessness: the 4th and the 5th piano concertos, the Carnival of the Animals, the Danse Macabre and the Organ Symphony also show off his versatility.
Samson et Dalila started out as an oratorio and was performed at a number of private concerts. In the 19th century the use of a biblical subject for an opera was frowned upon in France, Great Britain and probably in most other European countries. After the humiliating Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 Saint-Saëns for some reason decided that he had to rework the oratorio and ignore the censors and the self-appointed gatekeepers of the Christian faith.
But when Samson and Delilah was finally ready to be performed in 1877 nobody in France was willing to stage it. With the help of Franz Liszt it was therefore first seen in Weimar. Then it took 13 years before anyone in France showed interest and another 4 years before the country’s foremost company, Opéra de Paris, staged the work!
Certainly not an easy ride for an already very well respected pianist, organist and composer. In the end Saint-Saëns had reason to feel vindictive because the opera became a resounding success and in Paris alone it was performed 500 times during the next 30 years.

Samson (Carl Tanner) Grange Park Opera © Robert Workman
Samson (Carl Tanner) Grange Park Opera © Robert Workman

Samson et Dalila is now the only one of Saint-Saëns’s 12 operas that is performed on a fairly regular basis, but I had never before seen a production. I cherish my recording with Placido Domingo and Elena Obraztsova singing the title roles and Daniel Barenboim conducting. I made my mind up that I was not going to be unfair and expect the production at Grange Park Opera to musically reach those heights.
I needn’t have worried about the music, because all the musicians are equal to the task. But I want to take issue with the director of this production. Setting the opera in Vichy France during the German occupation doesn’t add anything to the action other than the most obvious. In the ballet scene it turns out that Delilah is a film star and instead of dancing we see the singers reacting to the action in the (oriental sounding) film that they are supposedly watching. I would still have preferred an orgiastic (bacchanale) ballet, but this solution is acceptable, because it is quite a sensible cost saving. But if the director wants to make a modern or even contemporary parallel why not portray the Philistines as Arabs, Palestinians (like Opera Flanders did) or ISIL. That last option could truly have been controversial and more relevant. I could do without swastikas and nazi saluting chorus members in opera production for a little while.

But the positives prevail over some poor directorial decisions. In the end the music comes first and overall the singers deliver  the goods. Ex-bounty hunter Carl Tanner may not have the dashing looks but he has the CV to claim the part and certainly displays both the ‘helden’ tenor voice and the firm ease required in the love duet.
Sara Fulgoni sounds darkly seductive and at the same time possesses the regal air of the film star she is meant to be. She builds up the tension and expectations very well with long phrasing,  before pulling out all the lyrical stops in the famous aria and subsequent duet  ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix’.
The youthful High Priest (Michel de Souza) is a man without a conscience and Christophoris Stamboglis as the Old Hebrew is as rock solid as the Masada fortress.
There are still clear elements of the original oratorio (Bach and Händel come to mind) in the first act and some of the rather static scenes can be blamed on the composer’s and the librettist Ferdinand Lemaire’s shortcomings. There are two choirs (Hebrews and Philistines) and the (mainly) young singers in the chorus get a marvellous opportunity to gain acting and singing experience.

Gianluca Marciano conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with restraint but certainly doesn’t underplay the Wagnerian mellifluence and pomp. Grange Park Opera is very lucky to have such a fine orchestra as its house band.

View the 2015 programme

END OF REVIEW

Grange Park Opera  photo: Albert Ehrnrooth
Grange Park Opera photo: Albert Ehrnrooth

GRANGE PARK OPERA at NORTHINGTON,  HAMPSHIRE

It is a perilous business running an opera company (even if it is only during the summer season) and perhaps even more so if you are dependent on incredibly generous, private donors. But Wasfi Kani clearly knows how to make the wealthy depart with their money for something as ephemeral as an opera performance. Grange Park Opera was founded in 1998 by Wasfi Kani and she remains the lynchpin. The location certainly plays a big part in the success of the whole operation

English Heritage’s property The Grange at Northington is surrounded by a landscaped garden and lush Hampshire countryside. An excellent setting for some heavy duty opera and a light picnic. The house has a Greek revival facade which could double as a backdrop for quite a few productions. The partly stripped and distressed Georgian interior are brought back to life every year when the bar and the restaurant are opened for the season.

Highly relevant Death in Venice

Benjamin Britten’s last opera, seen at Garsington Opera at Wormsley, 23 June 2015

Celestin Boutin (Tadzio), Paul Nilon (Aschenbach) credit Clive Barda
DEATH in VENICE by Britten Garsington Opera at Wormsley Choreographer Andreas Heise © CLIVE BARDA/ ArenaPAL

Benjamin Britten composed Death in Venice, based on Thomas Mann’s much admired novella, knowing that he didn’t have long to live. He prioritised composing the opera over the need to undergo open-heart surgery.

In the spring of 1973 he finished Death in Venice and only then admitted himself to hospital. After the operation he was still too unwell to attend the opening night. The pressure that Britten put himself under to finish the work is quite revealing and relevant to the interpretation of the work. Did he have something to get off his chest?

Luchino Visconti’s film version of Death in Venice (1971) I saw as a young adult. Particularly Dirk Bogarde playing the novelist Gustav von Aschenbach made a lasting impression. The director’s marvelous use of the Adagietto from the 5th Symphony inspired me to explore Gustav Mahler’s music and I am grateful to Visconti for that. I found out that Thomas Mann had based some traits of the Aschenbach character on Mahler, who he had once met. Mann learnt of Mahler’s death while working on his novella in Venice in June 1911 and it greatly saddened him. Britten was also a great admirer of Mahler’s music.

But when I revisited Visconti’s film a decade ago I found it sentimental, slow and morally quite hard to stomach. I was not familiar with Britten’s opera, but to say that I was apprehensive about seeing an opera on the same subject is an understatement. Luckily Garsington Opera persuaded me to experience their splendid new production. Now I know that Britten together with his librettist Myfanwy Piper composed an adaptation of the novel that intellectually is much more satisfying than Visconti’s film.

Benjamin Britten was still recovering from heart surgery and a stroke when Death in Venice had its world premiere in June 1973. Britten’s assistant Steuart Bedford was given his international break. Bedford proceeded to conduct the first recording of the work as well with Britten’s life partner Peter Pears, for whom the role was created, in the lead. Bedford is alive and well and now musically in charge of Garsington Opera’s new production. I can’t think of anyone else who is better suited for the job.

William Dazeley (Elderly Fop), Paul Nilon (Aschenbach) credit Clive Barda
DEATH in VENICE by Britten, Garsington Opera at Wormsley, Gustav von Aschenbach – Paul Nilon – The Traveller – William Dazeley © CLIVE BARDA/ ArenaPAL

Some of the members  of the Garsington Opera Orchestra have been performing together for some 20 years but they only get together for  three months a year. They certainly don’t sound like a temporary band and they need to be on their toes for Britten’s work. The score is quite tricky with exotic rhythms and dodecaphony thrown in for good measure. I know, the restraint is deliberate but in my ears various bits seem a touch too ‘under orchestrated’.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that there is only one passage with an orchestral tutti and the fragmentation doesn’t always seem to serve a real purpose.

Sreuart Bedford has total confidence in the work, paces it calmly, adds fluency and holds it all together, while at the same time guiding some of the less experienced singers and dancers.

Garsington Opera at Wormsley
Garsington Opera at Wormsley  photo:Albert Ehrnrooth

The libretto is quite faithful to Mann’s surprisingly complex novella. Gustav von Aschenbach ( Paul Nilon) suffers writer’s block and decides to visit La Serenissima where surely the inspiration will start to flow. On board a ship to Venice the ageing novelist meets a simpering, extremely irritating fop who fancies strapping young men. At the end we discover that we have seen a mirror image of von Aschenbach’s fate. He will become a foppish figure himself.

As soon as Aschenbach arrives in Venice messengers of Death begin to pop up everywhere. The sinister gondolier who takes Gustav to the Venice Lido surely is Charon, the ferryman of Hades. Then there is the hotel manager, the hotel barber and various other ill-boding and even menacing characters that are all performed by one and the same bass-baritone. At Garsington these roles were taken by the excellent and versatile William Dazeley.

Celestin Boutin (Tadzio), Chris Agius Darmanin (Jaschiu) credit Clive Barda
Lighting Designer Bruno Poet Choreographer Andreas Heise © CLIVE BARDA/ ArenaPAL

A young Polish family staying at the same grand hotel fascinates Von Aschenbach. Very soon he realises that he has become infatuated with the teenaged son, Tadizio. In the novel and the opera Tadizio very much embodies the Greek ideal of beauty. Perhaps he is also Hermes, the God who guides the recently deceased to the afterlife. The contrast between Apollonian and the Dionysian aspects, or in other words measure and harmony set against unbridled passion and excess, is what also made Britten tick. Aschenbach’s dream sees Apollo and Dionysos battling it out to win the writer’s soul and the (unhealthy) sexual tension is not held back in this production. Aschenbach thinks he is self-disciplined and in control, but Dionysus (William Dazeley ) stirs his uncontrollable feelings and obsession with Tadizio.

In the book Tadizio never speaks and in the opera he also remains mute. Britten’s brilliant move is to turn the Polish family into dancers. To stress the boy’s ‘otherness’ he is often accompanied by pitched percussion instruments and quite taut music which contrasts with von Aschenbach’s more dynamic and diverse accompaniment . For the beach games and children’s play Britten creates an exotic sound reminiscent of the Balinese gamelan.

Britten also incorporated the sounds distinct to Venice. He took note of the popular songs and calls of the gondoliers and incorporated them in the score. During the boat trip a scrubbing brush is deployed very effectively on the snare drum to mimic a ship’s steam engine. There are many similar instances.

When a cholera epidemic breaks out in Venice people start to leave but von Aschenbach chooses to stay so he can follow the Polish family around the city. The weather is sultry and his dreams become feverish and obsessive. After a rejuvenation make-over at the barber’s he looks like a fool. Tadizio for the first time acknowledges him but at the same time laughs at him. It all ends in tragedy. Or does it? Some people would argue that the ‘sick’ von Aschenbach gets what he deserves for being a pervert.

Britten  identified himself with von Aschenbach in many different respects. There are too many pompous Greek mythology references that perhaps try to present a more respectable, Hellenistic angle on paedophilia. But after the Jimmy Savile scandal and the avalanche of sex abuse trials we have a less forgiving view on these issues than people had 40 years ago.

Britten was without a doubt attracted to underage boys and his behavior at times showed a paedophilic inclination. There is no suggestion that he ever overstepped the mark and none of the boys (nor their parents) that he liked to host at home ever complained. It seems that Britten managed to successfully repress his sexual inclinations in that respect. Could it be that Britten’s insistence on finishing off his adaptation of Mann’s novella before undergoing the heart surgery was his way of dealing with sexual desires that he morally felt uncomfortable with? In a way Death in Venice, with all the moral questions it asks, is today even more relevant than 40 years ago.

Visconti’s film made Björn Andrésen ( in the role of Tadizio) quite famous and he was much admired for his blond and blue-eyed, cool Scandinavian looks. Celestin Boutin who gets to dance the same part in the opera is not bad looking either and he has a nicely toned body. Just like the other dancers he is clearly not a minor. Boutin has just completed his studies at Ellison Ballet in New York and here he gets to show off in many solos. Boutin doesn’t possess natural grace, but he compensates with muscular flexibility and athletic poise.

For female singers there isn’t an awful lot to do in this opera but the choir gets to mill around a fair bit. The staging is straightforward and economical. There is nothing wrong with that (except for the backdrop of the Venetian sky, which I find unconvincing). I loved the large white voile(?) curtains that can be pulled across the stage to create shadowy figures, secrecy and successfully evokes the rippling effect of lapping waves or the arrival of the dusty scirocco wind.

Paul Nilon as Gustav von Aschebach is without a doubt the star of the show. His characterization is excellent and he really inhabits the role, revealing new layers in scene after scene. The many recitatives are inspired by 17th century technique where the rhythmic profile is not determined. The singer is given quite a lot of freedom and Nilon nails it. The high lying lyrical lines pose no problem and his deep colouring is also very solid.

Finally I would like to thank the sun for making an appearance. Yes, the natural light really adds a special ‘summery feel’ to the staging, something that never could be achieved in an ordinary theatre. Venice was Britten’s second (after Suffolk) favourite place and there are moments when the serene magic of that city seems to radiate across the stage.

END OF REVIEW

GARSINGTON OPERA at Wormsley © CLIVE BARDA/ArenaPAL
Patrons in evening dress strolling and picnicking GARSINGTON OPERA at Wormsley © CLIVE BARDA/ArenaPAL

 

GARSINGTON OPERA, the BUILDING

Every year over a period of seven weeks Garsington Opera at Wormsley park (just off the M40 between Oxford and High Wycombe) stages four different operas. The whole costly operation is run completely with the help of private funding and donations by foundations.

Garsington Opera’s Pavillion at Wormsley Park (owned by the Getty family) was designed by architect Robin Snell and is worth a visit in itself. The construction is very clever and was surprisingly ‘cheap’ to build ( £1.8 million in 2010). Incredibly the auditorium can be put up and pulled down in a matter of weeks, but It has remained in place since it was first built. The Pavillion does have a Japanese feel to a it (particularly seen from  afar) with huge transparent fabric wall panels that welcome the natural summer ambience and provide natural light for the staging. In the unlikely event that you get bored during a performance, the garden views  visible from the auditorium offer a splendid alternative. The long interval gives you ample opportunity to picnic and explore the parkland setting with a rose arbour,  cricket pitch, lake, island pavilion and roaming deer.

Stressed fabric sails enhance the acoustic and the orchestra pit is placed in the  ha-ha which would go some way to explain the finely balanced sound.

 

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