The Skating Rink
David Sawer & Rory Mullarkey
Garsington Opera, Wormsley. 14 July 2018
Just days after the world premiere of a new opera (at Grange Park Opera, reviewed here), here is another one, this time The Skating Rink, performed at Garsington Opera, now firmly established as a feature in the spectacular landscape of Wormsley Park. Their new commission was written by David Sawer to a libretto by Rory Mullarkey, based on the novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. Set in a small seaside town on the Costa Brava in the late 1990s, the story is based around the beautiful young ice skating champion, Nuria, and her relationships first with Remo Moran and then with the obsessive and much older Enrico. Political machinations during the run-up to a local election year provide background intrigue, including such lines, presumably aimed at the well-heeled Garsington audience, as “I’m not a monster / I’m a Socialist” and the repeated refrain of “Fuck this Country/ Fuck the Government”. Getting rid of illegal immigrants runs through the storyline, focussed on an opera singer, Carmen, who has fallen hard times and the young girl Caradad, attractive beneath the shabbiness of her clothes. A large community cast provided further ‘vagrants’ and scene-shifters.
Gaspar, a local poet and an illegal immigrant himself, is at the bottom of a food chain hierarchy and is tasked with evicted Carmen and Caradad from the campsite at which he is the night watchman. He quickly falls for Caradad (pictured below), but she soon goes missing, running off through the audience. His search for her brings him into the murky world of what turns out to be a murder plot, combined with embezzlement, deception, lust for power, and obsession.
Così fan tutte
Garsington Opera, 7 June 2015
Garsington Opera’s 26th season (the 5th in their spectacular new home on the Wormsley estate) saw them spreading their wings with more educational projects and partnerships with the Royal Shakespeare Company and, in future years, Rambert and the Philharmonia Orchestra. As usual, they presented a mixed programme of popular operas, including the regularly returning Mozart, in this case with Così fan tutte.
The action was underway before the audience took their seats (in the award-winning architectural delight of the auditorium), with even more than usually well-heeled couples chatting engagingly and quaffed bubbly in the grounds. It then became apparent that they, and we, were all part of one of those weddings from hell. Outrageously dressed (and overly intoxicated) women, in high baroque wigs and dress, cavorted Continue reading
Garsington Opera opened its 25th anniversary season with a revival of Fidelio (13 July 2014), first heard (albeit not by me) in 2009, the opera company’s final year in Garsington village. Now planted just beyond the ha-ha of the Getty’s Wormsley estate, the extraordinary new opera house is a slightly incongruous setting for the bleakness of Fidelio’s prison, although it was a delight to see the prisoners brought into the (fading) light and out over the bridge into the ornamental gardens. But Fidelio remains a troublesome work. The elevated ideals that inspired Beethoven compositional struggles are marred by compromise of structure and plot, not least the rather inconsequential love scenes between Marzelline and Jaquino. Fidelio is frequently used as a vehicle for the political aspirations of the director, thereby overlying additional layers of complexity, usually very far from the original plot. But here, John Cox’s production plays it commendably straight, supported by period costumes and a neutral staging.
The character portrayals are convincing, notable in a young Fidelio/Leonore, sung with absolute integrity by the delightful Rebecca von Lipinski – a most impressive singer and actor, and equally believable in male and female incarnations. Stephen Richardson’s Rocco contrasted power with compassion – a nice twist is that it seems pretty clear that he knows exactly who Fidelio is. Peter Wedd’s Florestan dominated the second half, the sombre mood aided as the setting evening sun of the first half faded. Joshua Bloom’s Minister contrasted with the pantomime antics of Darren Jeffery’s Pizarro. Douglas Boyd conducted the house orchestra, playing modern instruments, with a fine sense of style and pace.