Grange Park Opera's repertoire is down this season to just three works: Idomeneo/Mozart, Queen of Spades/Tchaikovsky and Madama Butterfly/Puccini. This was the second year running that Cio-Cio San was caught in the Hampshire net; its production is a dismal, threadbare affair, visually. The set consists of a screen, a curved plywood? background in brown and a platform six inches high which is all anybody has to squat on until act two when an inappropriate-looking armchair appears.
The main protagonist, Mr and Mrs Pinkerton, sang their
notes well but there was no love chemistry between them; indeed they looked
rather like an Oldie magazine advert for insurance for the aged. Lieutenant
Marco Panuccio seemed pawky and paunchy rather than a dashing Yankee; (Mrs)
Claire Rutter sported unflattering garments topped by an ugly wig so there was
nothing to make her look desirable, let alone the 'fifteen years' she admits
her age to be. Her Suzuki/Sara Fulgoni towered over her mistress, sounding
unsympathetic, Sharpless / Stephen Gadd was good but kitted out in shabby looking
morning dress. Not a winning looking bunch.
Yet …and yet, the music
came across strongly, hearts were touched and tears flowed (mine did near a
dozen times.) What a masterly score it is! Puccini's finest work surely. And
Claire Rutter showed stamina in delivering her long part impressively so that
the audience forgot her none too satisfactory get-up. But where there is a good
operatic performance, it nearly always means that the conductor is first-class
and so it was here (June 30).Gianluca Marciano obtained great things from the
English Chamber Orchestra (not so 'chamber' neither). So there was real
pleasure to be had in the beautiful surroundings of the Hampshire countryside.
But Grange Opera can, and should, do better in the way of décor and costumes.