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Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment

 

Buxton Opera House, July 9 & 11, 
and Wilton's Music Hall, London  July
31 and August 2, 2018

 Photographs by Nathan  Cox and Robert Workman, courtesy of Opera della Luna

 

Opera della Luna originally produced their exhilarating take on Donizetti's opera at Iford in 2014. This year they have revved it up again for shows at Buxton and London with a new Marie, Elin Pritchard. Alan Jackson saw it at Wilton's on July 31 and has contributed the following review.  The photographs are taken from the Buxton performances.

 

What an enjoyable evening! Donizetti’s opera has been seen frequently at Covent Garden in recent years, and is due to return next summer, but this adaptation by a small company in a tiny venue worked extremely well. Instead of a French army regiment fighting the Austrians in the Tyrol, “The Regiment” is a biker gang scrapping with a rival gang in southern California, not that we see them any more than we see Austrians in a conventional production. Tonio is a Spanish immigrant and the other characters and situations more or less remain. The new English (or American-English) version by Jeff Clarke is clever and witty; it doesn’t shrink from altering the text to fit the new time and locale, yet the emotional situations are unchanged from the original. This is definitely not one of those concept productions that, ignoring what the music is telling us, impose themselves to the destruction of the original.  

 

The cast was excellent. Elin Pritchard was Marie, the eponymous heroine, warm toned and agile. If pushed, I will confess to missing the numerous cadenzas and decorations that Sutherland gave us. But her interpolated high notes remained rounded and pleasing to the ear, not the shrieks we too often hear. And in her moments of pathos, of which there are many, she was genuinely moving. Tonio was Jesus Alvarez. He nailed his high Cs in his big aria and thereafter seemed to relax a little as a stage presence, and he made a fair stab at his Act 2 romance. Charles Johnston and Katharine Taylor Jones were the effective Sulpice and Marsha (rather than Marquise de) Berkenfield. There was no big comic turn in Act 2 for the Duchess (here just Dulcie) Crackenthorpe played by Philip Cox in drag, but there was one of the funniest exhibitions of comic, camp acting from Robert Gildon as Hortensius polishing a fruit bowl of oranges in compensation. Everyone’s diction was crystal clear.  

 

The chorus of six bikers sang and acted brilliantly – there was no female chorus, their music at the start was cut. The tiny orchestra, just single strings and woodwinds, excelled. The production had been seen at the Buxton Festival just previously and perhaps the company hadn’t quite adjusted to the much smaller space at Wilton’s (not that Buxton is large, but Wilton’s is considerably smaller) as I did find some passages just a fraction relentlessly loud, though my seat very close to the front may have contributed to this. Jeff Clarke directed, amply fulfilling his tasks of telling the story clearly and getting his singers to act convincingly. The conductor was Benedict Kearns who paced the opera admirably and obtained beautifully sprung playing from his orchestra. I overheard someone say this was his first ever performance as a conductor. If so, it was an auspicious debut. The audience’s enjoyment was palpable.

 

The Team

Marie - Elin Pritchard

Tonio - Jesús Álvarez

Sulpice -Charles Johnston

Marsha Berkenfield - Katharine Taylor-Jones

Mr Hortensius - Robert Gildon

Dulcie Crackenthorpe - Philip Cox

Bikers - Richard Belshaw, Philip Cox, Graham Stone, Martin George, Jeremy Vinagradov, Richard Woodall 

 

Conductor -  Benedict Kearns (Wilton's) / Toby Purser (Buxton)

Director – Jeff Clarke

Sets -  Graham Wynne

Costume - Marie Lancashire

Lighting - Mark Jonathan    

 

Orchestra of Opera della Luna

 

 

Photo - Nathan Cox

Sulpice and Marie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo - Nathan Cox

Marie and Tonio

 

 

 

 

 

Photo - Nathan Cox

Marsha and Sulpice

 

 

 

 

 

Photo - Nathan Cox

The gang corner Tonio

 

 

 

 

 

Photo - Nathan Cox

Tonio becomes a full member of the gang

 

 

 

 

 

Photo - Nathan Cox

A wonderfully comic turn from Mr Hortensius polishing the oranges during the Act 2 Entr'acte

 

 

 

 

 

Photo - Robert Workman

Marie and the gang

 

 

 

 

 

Photo - Robert Workman

Sulpice, Tonio and Marie with the gang

 

 

 







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