Longborough Opera’s commitment to new and emerging talent takes the form of a fun and lively reimagining of Purcell’s Fairy Queen and a wider theme of renewal, regeneration, rejuvenation and rebirth. This fits in well with the youthful nature (no pun intended) of the players and other creatives for this multileveled fusion of musical and theatrical styles, Shakespearian and contemporary jargon and illusions, and the unavoidable eco warrior placard waving (literally).
I may be reading too much into the whole season but we have had Wagner’s fall of the gods and new order, Orfeo (temporarily) bringing Euridice out of her coma thanks to the NHS, an environmentally-aware English village for L’Elisir and now the world (rather than Euridice) being saved on that hospital trolley and drip. This time it is an abandoned theme park (a popular trope in post apocalypse sci-films) and the world that needs an emergency infusion or something, maybe some trippy drugs would be in keeping).
Anyway, whether or not there was an overall theme this show has enough mixing of genres and genders not to mention interweaving of Cotswolds and Celtic, yes that was Welsh for anyone who didn’t recognise some of the lyrics), to keep the audience mesmerised and probably mystified throughout.
It helped to know that the work, composed and written in 1692, is based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, as was the vogue, dances and musical interludes pepper the Shakespeare. Here that same interplay of art forms and spectacle is adopted by artistic director Polly Graham with her designer Nate Gibson to create a vehicle for composers Naomi Burrell and Harry Sever to meld or just bring onto the same stage Purcell’s score with folk music, period instruments with singers using microphones, pit, stage and auditorium.
The Youth Chorus form a we-are-all-doomed eco demo, and return to the doom and gloom harbingers of the apocalypse to ram home the green theme when the globe needs a transfusion, but most importantly they sing beautifully. When they join the principals it is a splendid sound. Again we have excellent acting and singing from Rachel Spiers, here as Tatiana and Hippolyta and Eleanor Broomfield sang a full-bloodied, no-nonsense Hermia with a marvellous Helena from Annie Reilly. Suzi Perkis made a captivating naughty Puck in her pink cowboy hat (and as Egeus and Snug) and Angharad Rowlands a cleverly drawn Peter Quince and Alys Mererid Roberts as a wittily played Flute and Thisby.
The men have opportunities to shine, including a rich bass-baritone Lysander from Peter Edge while Luke Horner’s Demetrius sang and acted up to great effect. Our Oberon (and Theseus) Lars Fischer was at his best when with Puck and when verbally jousting with his increasingly sloshed wife. Throughout the show we had fine work from George Robarts demonstrating a great penchant for comedy as Bottom and in the farcical, Pyramus and Thisbe.
Rhydian Jenkins was hopefully not typecast as a muscle-bound and rather nervy Snout and Wall as he sings delightfully and Edward Jowle again showed a delightful comic ability – and when given the opportunity a fine voice – as Moonshine and Starveling.
Back to the production, we had a Gran Cisne swan pedalo from the abandoned Spreekpark in Berlin and a giant ice cream cone redolent (the programme tells us) of Banksy’s Dismaland bit of jollity at Weston-Super-Mare a few years back. I am sure the former had nothing to do with Lohengrin’s swan boat but it would round off the Wagner allusion nicely.
Musically it is as varied as you would expect with so many styles applied, and with orchestral music supplied by The Early Music Company, yet ultimately a feel-good end to Longborough’s 2023 season.
Images Matthew Williams-Ellis
Main image Suzi Perkis
Until August 3
Longborough 2023 reviews
Gotterdammerung: Götterdämmerung at Longborough: Catharsis in the Cotswolds
L’Elisir d’amore: A magical L’elisir from Longborough Festival Opera