Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Summer Opera starts in rural South Buckinghamshire

Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri (the Italian girl in Algiers)

Reportor: Tim Arnold. Photograph: Johan Persson.
Mary Bevan as Elvira with Quirijn de Lang as Mustafà

The Garsington Company opened this summer's opera season in verdant countryside settings at Wormsley near Stokenchurch.

One could almost hear a collective sigh of relief among music fans as temperatures soared into the mid-70s (25°C) for the company's first production of this year: Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri.

The opera demands a light touch if its miracles of wit and finely-honed action are not to be lost. And the cast did not disappoint.

Mary Bevan, a former St Bernard's Convent, Slough, student, shone in the glinting evening sunlight as Elvira, wife of Mustafa, who complains that her husband no longer loves her.

Bevan had the right mixture of attitude and comedic timing that made the most of the role. We are used to taking her pitch-perfect voice for granted.

Quirijn de Lang as the chieftain ‐ and cheating husband - was a good foil, projecting the supreme confidence and occasional madness of an absolute ruler.

The other part of the love triangle, Isabella, was played by Ezgi Kutlu with great presence, thanks to her beautiful big eyes, which reminded one of a silent screen goddess. She carried the production throughout with grace and skill.

Riccardo Novaro, a last minute substitute for ailing Geoffrey Dolton, effortlessly stepped into the part of Taddeo, her companion.

Director Will Tuckett, making his Garsington debut, staged the production on a vast, white, wave-shaped set, suggesting a 1930s art deco Hollywood film lot.

It struck exactly the right note, amplifying Rossini's dramatic and emotional intensity ‐ as did the orchestra, conducted by David Parry, who has championed the composer's unique style of playing at Garsington since 2002.

The audience retired during the interval for the customary picnic in the grounds of the Wormsley estate, perhaps reflecting that the production stayed true to Rossini's original idea while managing to down-play its controversial themes of misogyny and racism.

Personally, I can't wait for the next Garsington visit. So long as the weather holds off. Here's to a long, hot summer of enjoyable opera.