Longborough Festival Opera
This was my first visit to the beautiful surroundings of Longborough in the Cotswolds, and it certainly won't be my last. With its lovely views across the Evenlode Valley, its intimate scale and unique atmosphere, this was an evening of high quality, both musically and dramatically.
This production made a virtue of the venue's limitations, with an absence of spectacle and the resulting concentration on the drama generated by the four main protagonists.
Maria Soulis as Carmen was sensuous and mocking, totally in control, her voice full of warmth and drama, with a thrilling freedom of phrasing and excellent diction. Poor Don Jose never stood a chance.
Gordon Wilson seemed to have some vocal difficulties at first in matching the size of his voice to the smaller scale of the hall but by La fleur que tu m'avais jetee, he had found an appropriate sweetness and tenderness, and as his disintegration proceeded throughout the opera his characterisation gripped us to harrowing effect.
The role of Micaela is a difficult one, given her intermittent appearances within the drama, but Sally Silver impressed immediately with the quality and intelligence of her singing.
Another highlight of the evening was the quality of the chorus, their precision of rhythm, of intonation and their attention to details of phrasing and pronunciation made them sound much larger in number than was the case.
There was also much pleasure to be had from the delicacy as well as power of the (reduced) orchestra under Jeremy Silver.
The only miscalculation in a fine evening was the decision to have the spoken dialogue in English, while the sung text was in French, with subtitles. The festival continues until July 15, with a performance of Britten's The Little Sweep on Tuesday and Carmen on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. www.longboroughopera.com.