BIRMINGHAM POST June 2001

Barn-storming performance

Götterdämmerung

Longborough Festival Opera

Maggie Cotton


An evening drive through some of our loveliest Cotswold scenery is a pretty good way to start an adventure. Destination - the culmination of a dream - an Opera house in a garden.

Tiny village Longborough is firmly on the map for 11 seasons of professional music performed in a splendidly converted barn.

Bemused 'first timers' find themselves sitting on plush red seats, admiring a crystal chandelier and listening to the anticipatory buzz from an evening-dress clad, all-age audience.

Owners Martin and Lizzie Graham launched Wagner's Ring cycle in 1998, hiring Jonathan Dove's reduced version originally created for the City of Birmingham Touring Opera.

This Götterdämmerung fielded a first class orchestra of 18 fine Midland musicians; exceptional playing, particularly Siegfried's magical hom flawlessly delivered by Neil Shewan.

Musical director Anthony Negus imaginatively marshalled additional forces of 14 singers -enhanced by surprisingly favourable acoustics - to the unfolding of the convoluted tragedy. Imaginative back projections thankfully gave welcome clues in refined, simplistic poster-style wording at key moments.

German libretto sounds great, but is tantalizingly out of reach for many of us.

Opera with passion - none more than Jenny Miller, moving in her portrayal of Brunnnilde, but on occasions her strident outpourings more suited to a much larger venue.

My money was on bass Mark Richardson for a blood tingling depiction of Hagen, with his controlled, powerful delivery and natural relaxed acting style adding up to a riveting stage presence.

Matthew Elton Thomas as Siegfried contrasted well with fine voice, elegant phrasing and again convincing acting, particularly in the death scene.

All in all a thought provoking, challenging production enhanced by fascinating lighting effects, culminating in a totally convincing funeral pyre and overflowing Rhine.

© - 2001 Birmingham Post

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