Alan Clayton (David) and Iestyn Davies (Jonathan) in Saul at Glyndebourne 2018
It has been a four opera week ranging though Handel, Mozart, Puccini and Mascagni. I started on Monday with the dress rehearsal at Glyndebourne of Handel's Saul - the first revival (of many perhaps) of Barrie Kosky's stunning 2015 production.
There were some cast changes so there was no attempt to repeat the magic of three years ago. Allan Clayton is a terrific replacement for Paul Appleby, Iestyn Davies's glorious singing in the key role of Jonathan looks likely to cast its spell again this year, while Stuart Jackson replaces Benjamin Hulett (tied up as Tamino at Garsington) quite splendidly as Abner/High Priest/Amalekite/Doeg - there are riches to be found in the current British tenor community! I was sad that neither of the two Sauls from 2015 were available - Christopher Purves transferring to Golaud in Glyndebourn'e new Pelléas (which I will see tomorrow) and Henry Waddington away in the title role in Garsington's Falstaff. With Laurence Cummings in the pit we had a great evening of music making in the finest English Handel tradition. It opened on Thursday and runs to to end of the season. Go!
Wednesday brought me to Garsington again, for a young people's performance of Die Zauberflöte. This was another example of the splendid work that Garsington is doing for the for the development of future audiences. The enthusiasm of these young people, mostly as far as I could estimate between the ages of 9 and 16, was so thrilling to see and hear. Opera really is alive and well.......and this performance was a worthy follow up to the Eugene Onegin in 2016 and Roxanna Panufnik's Silver Birch from last year.
The understudies, about whom I wrote some weeks ago, had the opportunity to show what they can do - and my goodness they matched the principals with splendid performances from Verity Wingate and Rob Lewis as the young couple, Nazan Fikret a Queen of the Night that nailed both arias, Dingle Yandell a most promising young bass as Sarastro, and Jack Sandison the Sprecher - lovely voice. Benjamin Lewis (the Onegin cover two years ago) was a vocally outstanding Papageno as well - another with great future prospects. It was an invigorating evening with Garsington's home at Wormsley looking as lovely as I've ever seen it - our long hot summer is a blessing indeed.
Next up was Friday afternoon - Bohème at Covent Garden with Danielle de Niese stealing the show as Musetta! Well she was clearly a willing partner with the production's director Richard Jones to produce something extra special. And she always delivers. She had a super supporting cast with Simona Mihai a sympathetic Mimi, Benjamin Bernheim a robust and resonant Rodolfo, a really excellent Marcello from Canadian baritone Etienne Dupuis, Duncan Rock a personable Schaunard, and Fernando Radó an ideally voiced Colline - a young man I first heard at the age of 22 in Mexico City in 2007. I brought him to the Neue Stimmen finals. He won second prize, second only to Marina Rebeka! It was so good to see him again!
I then went across town to Holland Park where the enterprising summer company have produced a real rarity - Mascagni's Isabeau. I guess that if it part of your "mission" to produce neglected works you may from time to come up with a dud. This was a perfect example. It was supremely redeemed by marvellous performances from David Butt Philip and Anne-Sophie Deprels. So I had a great evening. But I guess it may never be done better so I wont be seeking it out. That said it was a full house and rousingly applauded. So what do I know? My American friends will be able to see it in due course - this was a co-production with New York City Opera, what ever that is now.
Next stop is Glyndebourne again - more news when I recover from that!