Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Platée review – Rameau’s romp rocks Garsington

29 May 2024

Louisa Muller’s production hits all the right notes in this tragicomedy.


Samuel Boden & Chorus (Photo: Julian Guidera)

How to start a season? Do you go for a new production of a popular piece, or do you take a bold leap with a work seldom seen anywhere else? For its premiere production of the 2024 season, Garsington Opera decided to be bold with Rameau’s Platée, and pulled off a huge success with this sparkling (in more ways than one), funny, engaging production by Louisa Muller. You really can’t go wrong with a team like this – not only the director who has proved herself in this house with the superb Turn of the Screw, but the baroque specialist conductor and singer Paul Agnew in charge of The English Concert, plus Christopher Oram’s designs and Rebecca Howell’s choreography.

It’s impossible to imagine what Rameau would have thought of this Love Island meets The Bachelor interpretation of his work, but it’s certain that he would have admired the playing and singing, both of which faithfully reflected his view that music is “the language of the heart”. Paul Agnew directed a wonderfully idiomatic reading of this fascinating score, alive to all its humour, daring and occasional melancholy – he certainly dispelled the notion that Platée is mainly made up of comic episodes and imitative sounds of nature. Chrisopher Bucknall and Joe Crouch, Harpsichord and ‘Cello respectively, provided suitably witty continuo.

Garsington Opera… pulled off a huge success with this sparkling (in more ways than one), funny, engaging production…”


Jonathan McGovern, Robert Murray & Holly Brown (Photo: Clive Barda)

Platée has in common with Andrea Chénier (playing at Covent Garden from today) the fact that you’d be a fool to stage it without the eponymous tenor who can both sing and act what can sometimes seem impossible. Samuel Boden is the perfect Platée, not only in his agile, confident management of the role’s vocal twists and turns, but also in his athletic prowess, with one particularly impressive display – no chance of seeing Jonas Kaufmann doing that one! Boden is supported by an outstanding cast, many of them Garsington regulars including Robert Murray, his lyric tenor voice making light of some complex music, Henry Waddington, splendidly blustering and singing with his accustomed style, and the ever-suave Jonathan McGovern.

Ossian Huskinson sings with mellow assurance as Jupiter, and Annabel Kennedy equals his ‘godly’ arrogance as Juno. There’s also splendid work from Holly Brown’s Thalie, Audrey Tsang and Nancy Holt as the Maenads, and Holly Teague as Clarine. Victoria Songwei Li’s Amor was a sweetly sung assumption, and Mireille Asselin’s La Folie delighted in her music’s naughty parody of serious baroque style. The Garsington Opera Chorus sang superbly and took on their various roles with complete engagement, and the dancers were fabulous.

The video design, by Illuminos, worked well with Malcolm Rippeth’s subtle lighting, and Oram’s designs presented a brilliant display of colour and eye-catching settings – we don’t want to give too much away and spoil all the surprises, so we’ll just mention that inflatable flamingos and peacocks, frilly pea green knickers and golden wings are all part of the fun. Come and see for yourself.

• Details of upcoming performances can be found here.

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