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Subject: Three Weddings and..Il Trittico in the English countryside
From: David C Hall <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 28 Aug 1995 23:16:53 +0000
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If you remember the film Three Weddings and A Funeral for any reason except
Hugh Grant you will remember Simon Callow. He was the Scot in the film
whose death brought on THE funeral. Now he has tried his hand at opera
direction, and it was pretty good.

Callow has a UK track record as a theatre director and has a CARMEN JONES
to his credit, but the recently fledged international opera course at
Broomhill, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, south east of London, provided his
straight opera debut with IL TRITTICO.

Perhaps the most noticeable effect was the two 'live' deaths, Luigi in IL
TABARRO and SUOR ANGENLICA herself. Realistic, painful, definitely terminal
and not overplayed at all.

Subtlety is not really Callow's hallmark, but he knows his stagecraft. So,
despite the largely apprentice casts at his disposal, and original language
texts without surtitles,  it was quite clear throughout what was happening
on stage. He mainly refrained from 'messing about' with the three operas;
IL TABARRO was definitely on a barge on the Seine in Paris. SUOR ANGELICA
was indubitably set in a nunnery and GIANNI SCHICCHI in a dead Florentine
merchant's bedroom, though here the setting was updated to Victorian
(easier to get the costumes, I suppose). It was not Callow's fault that one
of the bit part singers tore a muscle or tendon before SCHICCHI and had to
appear in a wheelchair: would you believe it was... the physician?

One core architectural set served all three operas, with a traditional arch
over the river Seine becoming a church arch, which later served as the
medieval doorway to Buoso's room. Neat and effective concept, though a bit
cramped and the space constraints made the stairs (steps to the quay,
second way into the bedroom) very steep.

The artistic standard was surprisingly high. Broomhill, 30 or 40 miles from
London, started three years ago to put on a short summer season. It gathers
an international bunch of students and postgrads for a month or two in the
summer to learn and put on  opera in a modest Victorian theatre (possibly
300 seats). In such a short time it has done extremely well. IL TRITTICO
could have graced any of the UK's national opera companies without
embarrassment, not as fabulous as any of the senior companies on a good
night, but highly creditable all the same. (Of course, being in such a
small theatre was a help.)  Conductor Charles Hazlewood  and the Eos
orchestra (the programme says it means 'dawn') were especially impressive,
well able to match the very different moods of the three pieces.

A couple of memories in particular will stay with me. One is of Antoni
Garfield Henry, the tenor singing the doomed Luigi in IL TABARRO. His CV
reveals no trace of operatic training; instead  he cites Sweeney Todd, Miss
Saigon and Starlight Express, plus Carmen Jones (which Callow directed).
But he has a voice of tenderness and expression which rings out. Probably
the best voice of the evening. The second lingering memory is of Angelica,
Canadian Constance Novis, appealing to the Madonna as she realises what
mortal (or immortal) peril her suicide has placed her in. After a pretty
plain rendition, when I had to fight to stop my attention wandering, Novis
unbuttoned a tone and a volume for the final 'O Madonna, salvami' which
almost lifted my scalp off. Great operatic moments tend to make my scalp
tingle; this was a highly concentrated version and I can't really account
for it. Must have been the surprise, I guess, at experiencing such a
wonderful sound at an apprentice event in the sticks, or the sheer
proximity to Novis. I guess Puccini had something to do with it, too :-)

Opera at Broomhill is a bit like watered down Glyndebourne: early start and
extended interval for a meal. No black tie (tuxedos), but the setting is,
if anything, more impressive and several picnics seemed selected to impress
the neighbours. The welcome, however, is very warm and accommodating, the
atmosphere informal. The theatre is tiny, the seating has just been renewed
and is OK, with adequate leg room. The biggest contrast with Glyndebourne
is the prices. Instead of 150 uk pounds, Broomhill peaks at 37.50; standing
is 5 pounds. It doesn't appear to matter what price you pay or where you
sit, you can almost touch the stage from anywhere :-)

IL TRITTICO is on  Aug 29 and 31, and Sept 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10.
Broomhill also has some new works: Andrew Toovey's THE JUNIPER TREE (Sep
1,6,8),  Nicholas Johnson's THE RELUCTANT HIGHWAYMAN (Aug 30 and  Sep 4). A
score held performance of a Broomhill commission, Jane Mielniczek's CANNED
GOODS, was given on Aug 28.

Anyone near London and the south east of England could do worse than drop
by. Tel +44 (0)1892 517720.

For the record, credits on August 26 were:

Il Tabarro:
Chris Owens             Michele
Antoni Garfield Henry   Luigi
Russell Hibberd         Tinca
John Milne              Talpa
Julia Melinek           Giorgetta
Deborah Hawksley        Frugola
Arwel Treharne Morgan   Venditore di canzonetta

Suor Angelica:
Constance Novis         Suor Angelica
Rebecca de Pont Davies  La Zia Principessa
Elisabeth Vass          La Badessa
Tamsin  Dalley          La Suora Zelatrice
Katy Bingham-Best       La Maestra della Novizie
Lurelle Alefounder      Suor Genovieffa
Karen Born              Suor Dolcina

Gianni Schicchi:
Anthony Marber          Gianni Schicchi
Lurelle Alefounder      Lauretta
Rebecca de Pont Davies  Zita
Timothy Evans Jones     Rinuccio
Arwel Treharne Morgan   Gherardo
Toni Nunn               Nella
David Crown             Betto di Signa

Director                Simon Callow
Conductor               Charles Hazlewood
Eos orchestra

Cheers
Dave

D C Hall
79 Mycenae Rd, London SE3 7SE, UK
[log in to unmask]
Tel (+44) (0)181 858 4154 fax (+44) (0)181 853 4840

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