Magazine article The Spectator

Cheerful Mythology

Magazine article The Spectator

Cheerful Mythology

Article excerpt

Opera

Die Liebe der Danae (Garsington)

Little Me (Guildhall)

Cheerful mythology Michael Tanner

For my first visit to Garsington the heavens opened with impressive punctuality, though not for long enough to spoil the actual performance. Being there when the weather is bad can be no joy, though, even for those people - it looked as if the audience largely consisted of them - who frequent expensive English places for various kinds of al fresco fun.

The theatre itself is comfortable in temperate weather, steeply raked seats giving an excellent view of the stage, the orchestra below ground, semi-covered. The setting, even on a fine evening, has its pluses and minuses. It is lovely to look out over the grounds, but various kinds of disturbance, inadvertent on this occasion, I think, are quite distracting. Not that Richard Strauss, whose Die Liebe der Danae was so superbly performed, is the man to be beaten by accidents of nature or machines.

Even with a reduced orchestra, the racket Elgar Howarth conjured was impressive, and though there were too few strings, the general effect of high-Straussian lushness moving into late-period restraint was convincing. And the voices, all of them excellent though not large, could carry without strain. The settings for this cheerful mythology were fairly witty, the costumes and the general feel modern. There was something of a Forties Hollywood musical sense about it which the composer would surely not have minded, though the grim and portentous librettist Joseph Gregor surely would have. (For surtitle haters, by the way, this is the show to go to. Long and ponderous passages of complex German syntax are to be understood from having read the plot beforehand or from simultaneous study of the libretto, on sale at Garsington.)

The singing would have graced a production at the Royal Opera - not that I'm making a suggestion. The large part of Jupiter, sung at the dress rehearsal in 1944 - there was no public performance - by Hans Hotter, was coped with in a way that can hardly have been inferior by Peter Coleman-Wright, capable of a light tone as well as of Wagnerian richness. The title role was taken by Orla Boylan, of whom there is no question that we shall be seeing a great deal. She can moo and coo to the manner born, should soon be a vocally ideal Arabella and Ariadne. Danae's beloved, once she has got over her obsession with gold, was the Midas of Adrian Thompson, who seemed to find the role a relaxation after his recent Bacchus. …

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