Magazine article Musical Opinion

ENO's Sir John in Love

Magazine article Musical Opinion

ENO's Sir John in Love

Article excerpt

No effort was spared by English National Opera to make its new production of Vaughan Williams' Sir John in Love, the kind of crowd-puller that the company needs to consolidate its fortunes after recent vicissitudes. The curtain rose at the Coliseum on 2 March on a pageant of Edwardian Merrie England: the Fords and the Pages seen as leading citizens of Windsor, the ladies back from a shopping trip to Harrods, their solidly respectable husbands a bowler-hatted City gent and a tweed-suited countryman, Falstaff himself a member of the local gentry, massively clad in the loudest check plus-fours, and a galaxy of minor characters slightly caricatured, all contributing to the cleverly observed community created by the director Ian Judge in his attempt to infuse some dramatic impetus into Ralph Vaughan Williams' long neglected opera.

It is nearly half a century since it was undertaken by a professional company in London, though it was heard in concert a decade ago, which is perhaps where it belongs. For in the setting of his own libretto, based on Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, with minor interpolations from other plays and other poets, including various apt folksongs, RVW composed rewarding solos and small ensembles as well as some stirring choruses that were finely rendered, although they do not add up to a score of trenchant theatricality.

Already well into the skin of the fat Knight from his portrayal in Verdi's Falstaff, Andrew Shore did all that could be done here with the title role, his mobile baritone serving the music admirably and his light-footed acting perfectly judged to each incident and circumstance. …

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