OPERA REVIEW: I DUE BARONI DE ROCCA AZZURRA Bampton Classical Opera Bampton, Oxfordshire
Dunnett, Roderic, The Independent (London, England)
The Gods must favour Bampton Classical Opera: an hour before its latest ingenious open-air offering began, clouds lowered, rain splattered, and Tornadoes roared overhead from the air tattoo at nearby RAF Fairford. Then, hey presto, enter the sun, no wing- tipping, and all the decibels came from David Owen Norris's spirited and chirpily Italianate direction of a much-improved cadre of Bampton strings.
They favoured Cimarosa, too, who narrowly missed beheading in 1799 for composing a Napoleonic revolutionary hymn. Cimarosa's I due baroni de Rocca Azzurra has enjoyed only one English staging: a five- evening run at London's King's Theatre in 1803, where its zany comic thrust and witty score were praised by The Times, only to be dismissed by The Chronicle as "unsufferably long, frigid and unmeaning".
To judge by Bampton's typically entertaining spoof, directed with aplomb by Jeremy Gray, the truth lies somewhere between. Amid fairly static keys, one denouement wrench felt distinctly odd, and you longed for clarinets; but the recitative in Gray's chirpy translation (quips about Betjeman, Madonna and Raymond Blanc) is brisk and entertaining, powered by Norris's flowing continuo, and amid some glorious arias, Cimarosa makes fine use of Rossini- anticipating ensembles to move Palomba's contorted tale forward.
Without the added variety of chorus, the weight falls heavily on the shoulders of the five leads, for which Bampton amassed a terrific cast. …