Monday, August 17, 2009


It is good that music is once more a social affair. Not perhaps to the extent of music-making in the home, as was once the custom. Nowadays it takes the form of concerts and operas in churches, halls, stately and not quite so stately homes, with picnics and glasses of wine.

Last month (August 1) I went to a fairly new venture in Hampshire not far from Basingstoke, in West Green House where a famous Australian Gardener (several books) lives. Her name is Marylyn Abbot and her love of music has led her to put on opera. Last year she invited a group from the famous Drottningholm Theatre (perfectly preserved small opera house just outside Stockholm) to perform; this year Opera Project are in residence for Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and another weekend, a double bill of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (Yvonne Kenny as the forsaken Queen) and a mock Opera Pyramus and Thisbe, based on act five of Shakespeare’s magic comedy, composer John Frederick Lampa, a contemporary of Handel.

The gardens of West Green are sumptuously rich, well worth the special journey. There is quite a large lake, around which are several pavilions and a large marquee for gorging and swilling in the interval. A Theatre has been knocked up with seating for 230 and a pit for the band. Not a big pit but large enough for the ten players (single strings, single woodwind and a horn) that Jonathan Lyness, the excellent conductor, has produced a boiled down score for (very skillfull).

I don’t think you would know the names of any of the singers but they were all young, had been well taught to carry the action effectively and agreeably by Richard Studer. Only Mrs Almaviva was not quite up to her solos and the ensembles fairly fizzed along. Amanda Holden’s fine English version was used and a good time was had by all despite dismal weather.

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