Classical and Opera Reviews

La Périchole @ Garsington Opera, Wormsley



A ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting

His bunch of keys goes jin-gl-ing.

A ding ding ding ding ding dong

And that is the jolly jailor’s song.

Laugh, at this silly stuff? We chortled, clapped and stomped — naturally, the copious quantities of alcohol consumed during the dinner interval had an influence, but it was the singing and characterization which delighted; it’s hard to imagine how Geoffrey Dolton’s Viceroy, Naomi O’Connell’s Périchole and Robert Murray’s Piquillo could be bettered in these parts. Dolton’s warm, fluent baritone and brilliant comic timing may be familiar from his unforgettable ENO Duke of Plaza-Toro, and Murray’s lovely Mozartian tenor and air of innocence may be recognizable from his roles at the RCM, ROH and ENO, but this production is O’Connell’s UK operatic debut, and she is a star in the making. Hardly surprising, given that she’s a postgraduate of the Juillard who will make her Carnegie Hall debut in 2013.

Wagner once notoriously remarked that he felt nothing for the deaths in a theatre fire, of 384 audience members who had been enjoying an Offenbach operetta, because that composer’s music “contains not one iota of moral worth.” I’m not so sure about that, given the fairly vicious satire on the morals of the Viceroy and his court, but it hardly matters; one looks to Offenbach, the “Mozart of the Champs-Elysées” as Rossini dubbed him, for fun and frivolity, and they are provided in abundance in this production by Jeremy Sams, with elegant designs by Francis O’Connor and snappy choreography by Tim Jackson.

The big set pieces such as the wedding scene are hilariously done, getting plenty of laughs for Andrew Dickinson and Oliver Hunt as the drunken lawyers, as well as O’Connell’s characterfully sung ‘Very merry Périchole.’ Simon Butteriss is another class act as Don Pedro, and Mark Wilde makes the role of First Lord of the Bedchamber his own; Walter van Dyk is a splendid Old Prisoner / Marquis, and the ‘Cousins three’ are given luxury casting in the shape of Diana Montague, Fiona Kimm and Jennifer Rhys-Davies. The chorus sings with gusto, and the orchestra plays with wit and verve under David Parry, relishing not only the bouncy numbers but the quieter passages such as the delicate accompaniment to Piquillo’s ‘This dilemma is all-consuming.’

It’s that prison scene which really nails it, though, not only for the ‘jolly jailor’s song’ but for that wonderful ‘Such true devotion, etcetera etcetera’ duet, which has surely never sounded so much like a wicked parody of ‘O namenlose Freude.’ Tucked up under our blankies as the rain pattered down, we delighted in the translation, even if the general level of diction made the surtitles superfluous. Oh, and the llamas are cute, too, but I’ll leave you to discover that… if you can’t make it to Wormsley but might be able to get somewhere near Skegness on July 1st, the performance on that date is being screened live as part of the SO Festival, with beach entertainment, food and fireworks.



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