Two great reviews in Opera Magazine France for our performances at the Festival de la Vézère in August 2017
LA BOHÈME (12th August 2017)
Created and run by Isabelle de Lasleyrie du Saillant, the Vezere festival celebrates its 37th birthday this year. For a month, between mid July and mid August, musical evenings follow one another in various different places in Correze. The weekend of the 15th August is traditionally reserved for two operas, given in the outbuildings of the Chateaux du Saillant, by the British company Diva Opera. Two facts: taking the place of the orchestra is a pianist, the excellent Bryan Evans whose wondrous skill is breathtaking, and the production has to take account of the cramped space available and exclude all scenery.
For La Boheme a stove and some furniture suffices to conjure up the attic in which the four artists live, achieved very naturally by Cameron Menzies. Nicola Jackson’s pretty period costumes show off the female singers beautifully. Sung by a young cast, the opera seduces one with its freshness, its lively spirit and its credibility.
With her fruity, velvet voice Susana Gaspar is a touching Mimi – the “bella bambina” that Rodolfo calls evokes. She sings “mi chiamano Mimi” with such sincerity that one has the impression of rediscovering this well-known aria all over again. Carly Owen impersonates a flamboyant Musetta with a scarlet feather adorning her bun; at the end she is very moving when deciding to sell her hearings to buy Mimi some cordial. Robyn Lyn Evans is a sensitive and temperate Rodolfo, Adam Gilbert a man tormented by jealousy and Euros Campbell a convincing Shaunard. As for Lukasz Karauda he interprets the valediction of his overcoat with much brio. The truculent Martin Lamb embodies both Benoit and Alcindoro as if he had just emerged out of a Dickens novel.
Since a chorus in the second act is out of the question, two singers replace the strollers and the children who admire Parpignol’s toys. A big success at the final curtain!
LA CENERENTOLA (11th August 2017)
La Cenerentola had two performances. The first was designed to be sung in front of children as a “voyage of discovery”; here the opera was sung in a shortened version with a narrator explaining the plot. The second, two days later, was in front of an enthusiastic public who greatly enjoyed Wayne Morris’ humorous production. The director used huge gags like the entrance of Don Magnifico brandishing a chamber pot that he pretends to empty over the audience producing uproarious laughter. The very spirited performance uses the comical nature of the score well. With their jerky movements on various occasions the characters appear like marionettes without strings.
Fresh from her role as Cherubino at the Garsington Festival Marta Fontanals-Simmons is a delectable Angelina: with all the grace of a pre-Raphaelite model this British mezzo has a dextrous voice full of luminous high notes. The two sisters are often show up as harpies; here young and comely, these conceited women – interpreted very amusingly by Charmian Bedford and Louise Mott – go from wearing hair curlers to fine brocaded dresses without ever losing their haughtiness. Ashley Catling is an imposing Ramiro while Martin Lamb, in his fine leaf-patterened vest, plays a very jovial Don Magnifico. As Dandini, the crafty servant, Julien Van Mellaerts is set against Matthew Hargreaves’ Alidoro – the deus ex machina who pulls all the strings.
Duos, quintets and sextets succeed one another in rapid succession, accompanied on the piano by Bryan Evans. At the end of the opera everyone is involved in a devilish whirlwind of a dance and the public, now conquered, burst into “bravos”.
Opera Magazine France