Good casting, fine finging, chorus and orchestra excellent backed up by the conductor – so, complete satisfaction? Alas, no. Falstaff was spoiled by hammy fooling, Onegin by time switching. These were the two latest operas to be performed at Holland Park in its sixteenth season which lasted from June 7 – 4 August.
The title-role in Verdi's swansong Falstaff was sung by Icelandic Olafur Sigurdarson, fine sound and articulation in all registers, good actor and young enough to do cartwheels. Ford, George van Bergen was suitably snarling, Linda Richardson pleasing as his wife with Carole Wilson noteworthy as Mistress Quickly (Georgian Bergen), thrush-throated Nanette (Rhona McKail), tenor Fenton (Benjamin Hulwet), lyrical with suitable casting all the way down.Dissatisfaction then? The director, Annalese Miskimmon had not learned the basic rule: play comedy and farce straight, conscious funny is not funny. She made her cast mug and ham whereas Verdi's score is a miracle of refinement and subtlety. The conductor Peter Robinson laid it on heavily too.
But the last act had good chorus grouping and atmosphere.
Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin was damaged by altering the period in which the opera is set. The final act sprouted a fifteen foot-high portrait of Lenin and the chorus dressed as Soviet workers, despite which Tatiana was addressed as 'Princess', which is surely having your Communist cake and eating it. Again, casting, singing and musical performance top class, superbly directed by Alexander Polianichko, Mariinsky Theatre. Was Onegin the cad the composer thought he was, or did he do the only thing possible that would avoid a marriage that would surely not last?
Mark Stone (Onegin) was personable and made to seem sympathetic. Peter Auty sang really well as Lensky and Anna Leese Tatiana sang truly; but the set was a tumbled down jumble of wreckage, no bed and no furniture. Anybody seeing the opera for the first time would get a completely false idea of the opera. This time switching is a plague, why do those in charge of planning permit these blots on the operatic landscape?