Opera performances fail to take root

Country Matters, English Touring Opera, Snape Maltings, November 9Sometimes even lilies need gilding. This performance of a little known Haydn opera is such a case in point.

Country Matters, English Touring Opera, Snape Maltings, November 9

Sometimes even lilies need gilding. This performance of a little known Haydn opera is such a case in point.

Country Matters, translated into English from the composer's L'infedelta delusa, revolves around a rather weedy plot about parental ambitions for an advantageous marriage being thwarted by youthful guile and energy.

Limited sustenance is provided by a score which whilst never anything less than polished and competent rarely sets the pulse racing with real emotion.


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However, beneficent growing conditions were provided, to an extent, in this performance by both clever direction and a surreal and eye-catching use of the limited stage space. The action takes place on a chessboard surrounded by silver barked trees from which hang brilliant red hearts - a sort of Bergman film set as interpreted by Peter Greenaway.

The carefully ordered chairs at the curtain rise end up once gain neatly arranged at the close but only after they are chaotically flung hither and thither as the protagonists' flouncy turmoils unfold.

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My interest in the treatment of the furniture partly reflects the merely moderate performances allowed to the five singers. Certainly, Charlotte Ellett was suitably feisty as the cunning little country girl, Vespina and tenor Andrew Staples provided moments of mild amusement as the prissily smug and nice-but-dim Nencio.

Lorina Gore as Sandrina and Huw Rhys-Evans as her machinating old man were competent. Jonathan Gunthorpe as Sandrina's suitor Nanni was disappointingly underpowered.

The English Touring Opera obviously deserve a 'highly commended' for displaying the work in the first place, but I defy anyone to claim that this particular musical lily would win a prize at any operatic flower show.

Paul Simon

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