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Nicolai Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Opera in a three acts [sung in German with English surtitles]

Frau Fluth – Sky Ingram Frau Reich – Sioned Gwen Davies Fluth – Victor Sicard Reich – Ciprian Droma Anna Reich – Ellie Laugharne Falstaff – Barnaby Rea Fenton – Luis Gomes Spärlich – Jorge Navarro-Colorado Dr Cajus – Benjamin Appl Secretary – Alexia Pingaud Barmaid – Menna Davies Drinkers – Alessandro Fisher & Adam Sullivan

GSMD Orchestra & Chorus/Clive Timms
Harry Fehr – Director
Tom Rogers – Designs
Colin Grenfell – Lighting
Victoria Newlyn – Movement

Silk Street Theatre, London November 14, 2011

"a production of Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor that puts into the shade many offerings by some larger state-funded organisations..." *

Most reviews have been rather condescending about this once popular, now rare, Falstaff opera, displaced from the repertoire by Verdi's masterpiece. We enjoyed Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber immoderately.

After the pretentious, overloaded, expensive and often misconceived joint ENO/The Met Eugene Onegin, this excellent student production gave unalloyed delight.

Taking the early 19th music for what it is (Nicolai died young, within a few weeks of its 1849 premiere) the staging made the day, with brilliant double sets to contrast the two families upon the wives who organised Falstaff's temptations and comeuppances, as too those of the jealous husbands. The inventiveness of the characterisations was special and with good German pronunciation, this was well prepared teamwork.

An excellent cast of advanced students, and an orchestra of a quality we have learnt to expect from the best colleges, these Merry Wives deserve revival plus a DVD, which is now de rigeur from smaller continental opera houses.

No one particularly to single out, but everyone should be proud to have contributed to a great operatic evening.

I concur with the review in Seen&Heard (which I founded, long years ago) and we too found that "Harry Fehr’s direction and the singers from the Guildhall School Opera Course, backed up by a solid chorus and a deft performance from the orchestra under the experienced Clive Timms, combined to give one of the most entertaining evenings of opera for many years" [Jim Pritchard] * .

I am sorry there is only one more performance to come.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin

Madame Larina – Diana Montague Tatyana – Amanda Echalaz Olga – Claudia Huckle Filippyevna – Catherine Wyn-Rogers Eugene Onegin – Audun Iversen Vladimir Lensky – Toby Spence Monsieur Triquet – Adrian Thompson Zaretsky – David Stout Prince Gremin – Brindley Sherratt
English National Opera Chorus & Orchestra Edward Gardner
Deborah Warner – Director Tom Pye – Set designer Chloe Obolensky – Costume designer Jean Kalman – Lighting designer Finn Ross & Ian William Galloway – Video designers Kim Brandstrup – Choreography

ENO at The Coliseum, London Saturday, November 12, 2011

I expected mixed reviews of ENO's grandiose new Eugene Onegin (a joint production with the New York Met) but its almost unanimous praise makes us feel outsiders, so I will keep my reservations, mostly about the sets, brief.

The huge 1st Act barn set for the Larinas' well-staffed household, designed for The Met, did not seem to have a bedroom for Tatanya? My two illustrations above may help to make my main point. The composite programme cover image shows Audun Iversen with a pistol on a snow covered country; the actual scene of Chloe Obolensky's set suggests ice (upon which the characters, clad as they were, could not have moved about safely to kill each other with rifles) and that ice is "artfully" extended with mirrored extensions left and right (which some audience members did not notice, others found their effect beautiful). Those same mirrored walls served to multiply the grandiose columns of the Gremins' ballroom...

We did not warm to ENO's previous Eugene Onegin, and have far preferred most other productions such as WNO's filmed at Cardiff and Opera Holland Park's in 2005 and those linked reviews explain why.

Musically, ENO did well under Edward Gardner, with the Lensky, M. Triquet and Prince Gremin stealing their scenes.

Peter Grahame Woolf

For a more representative appreciation, and in fairness, see MusicOMH's review.