Tuesday, 6 July 2010
Three Hampshire Oranges
Anticipated my second visit to Grange Park Opera near Winchester very keenly as I wanted to show the diplo-mate the extraordinary, enclosed grounds including wild lake penetrable only by dusty dirt tracks
the ruined neoclassical house in the middle of this nowhere
and the spectacular conversion of the Orangery into a pleasant little theatre, complete with kitsch fluffy Swarowski chandeliers that rise before the show begins and the toy train running under glass in the balcony. The first occasion had been to talk on and see a first-rate production of The Gambler two years ago; this time it was more well-squeezed Prokofiev in the shape of The Love for Three Oranges. The three production photos here are by Alastair Muir.
You can now expect shows at Grange Park more or less on the level of Glyndebourne, a notch perhaps above Garsington. Delighted to see that finest of singing-actor tenors, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts as the hypochondriacal prince; little did I expect to hear another Welsh tenor of equal quality, and maybe lovelier sounds, Wynne Evans, as Truffaldino. The production was again the inventive David Fielding's: a bit of this, a bit of that, good basic idea of the Eccentrics who put on the show as stagehands, less well followed through. The magic looked good, with Fata Morgana and Tchelio (Vuyani Mlinde - good voice, sometimes shaky musicianship) as rival latterday magicians, she leggy in stockings and Cabaret/Chicago like attire (though less than voluptuously sung by Rebecca Cooper).
Superb drag cook - Francisco Javier Borda, one of three strong basses in the show - with a giant fridge full of corpses and rotting oranges in the bottom. The ever-waxing oranges are of course cartons out of which pretty French filles pop and flop.
Leo Hussain whipped up a storm from the English Chamber Orchestra in the pit; I've heard it more springily done but never more diabolically.
And, let's face it, culinary opera like this is always going to mesh with the pleasures of the place. We had a superlatively good birthday meal in the restaurant, its crumbling ceiling stylishly netted from harming the punters:
and despite the increasingly noisy, rather unattractive regional crowd - J heard one old man say to his wife in the interval 'you go potty? Me go potty' - it was fun to take tea and macaroons on arrival from the local ladies: still a village-institute feel. But presiding spirit Wasfi Kani continues to do an amazing job, fundraising in hard times to keep the artistic quality, and as I'm a sucker for doggies on stage, I was touched to witness ageing black labrador Ellie following the owner, Lord Ashburton, on to the stage, blinking somewhat incredulously at the audience noise before sitting and lying down patiently during her master's opening speech. Tristan next year, they intend, and why not?