Clonter Opera Theatre (www.clonteropera.com/home.htm) is based in a
converted barn deep in the Cheshire countryside; originally the audience sat
on straw bales, though now most of the 350 seater proscenium auditorium is
fitted out with the old seats (reputedly) from the Royal Opera House, Covent
Garden. It is still a theatre-in-a-field on a family run farm, Jeffrey
Lockett being the presiding genius.
Last season, the orchestra pit was unveiled, and for the first time an
orchestra could be used instead of the former reduced forces. Besides
performances in the theatre, they have small scale tours, an educational
programme for schools and a training programme for young singers, all on an
agonisingly small budget.
Last night, I went with a group of friends to hear La Boheme; these friends
included both first-time opera-goers and ~Sold hands~T. Though during the long
supper interval (a la Glyndebourne) we all accounted ourselves well pleased.
I saw a very well-received Le Nozze di Figaro last season which included in
the cast the up and coming young Samoan bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu; the
quality of the cast of this season~Rs La Boheme was of an equal standard.
The opera was sung in English and having no chorus meant that the Caf? Momus
scene was cut somewhat, as was the glorious beginning of Act 3, but one only
missed these for a moment! Scenery is minimal and as there is no curtain,
all scene changes are done in full view of the audience, but all very slick
The cast were all young professionals, some recent postgraduates from music
college, some a little more experienced, all committed and enthusiastic. I
found I had only seen one of the singers before and that was Roland Davitt
who was a very creditable Ford in the recent Royal Northern College of
Music~Rs Falstaff. The cast was as follows:-
Rodolf Sune Hjerrild
Marcello Damian Thantrey
Colline Peter Grant
Schaunard Jared Holt
Benoit/ Roland Davitt
Musetta Kateriana Fenech
Mimi Benedikte Moes
Waiter/ Antony Cleverton
Waitress Marni Rachel Lamb
Conductor of the largely student (RNCM) orchestra was Michael Rosewell. The
whole being very well directed by June Howson.
Of the cast I was most impressed by the Marcello of Damian Thantrey. Looking
like a taller, darker version of Ian Bostridge, he moved round the stage as
if in his natural element; totally at ease. Although billed as a bass, his
curriculum vitae (and my ears) would suggest a baritone.
Sune Hjerrild negotiated Rodolfo~Rs music with no hint of strain and
Benedikte Moes~Rs pale wraith of a Mimi looked the part absolutely. Kateriana
Fenech made a stunning Musetta, her rapport with Marcello thoroughly
convincing. All the cast threw themselves into their roles totally and there
wasn~Rt a dry eye in the house or on the stage as the last notes faded.
We caught the last night of this run (there will be one further performance
on October 6th), and then they will appear at the Britten Theatre in London
for a short run (October 10th and 11th) Thoroughly recommended.
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