Blaise le savetier, L’amant jaloux, St John’s Smith Square, **/ Berkeley Ensemble, The Forge, ****

 

London

It seemed a nice idea for Bampton Classical Opera to revive works by two largely-forgotten French composers.

Francois-André Danican Philidor (1726-1795) was best known as the first chess grand-master, while André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741-1813) was a prolific and popular pasticheur, and their operas are seldom heard today, so we were as curious about their music as about how it would be done.

Philidor’s ‘Blaise le savetier’ (‘the cobbler’) proved to be a pretty basic domestic romp, with a score that didn’t go anywhere very interesting; Grétry’s ‘L’amant jaloux’, written twenty years later, was infinitely more sophisticated in both plot and music, with sections which could almost have been by Mozart.

But if this little touring group wants to make its mark in big metropolitan venues, it must raise its game, because this was parish-hall stuff. The acoustic of St John’s Smith Square may not be good for speech, but hardly a word was comprehensible, and the direction, insofar as there was any, was cack-handed in the extreme.

If one of your singers is in the last stages of pregnancy, you don’t put a costume on her emphasising that fact when it completely contradicts her character, and the evening was studded with such unintended laughs. That said, we got some spirited and promising individual performances: I look forward to hearing more from tenor Oliver Mercer, and when Maire Flavin has better control of her very big sound, and when Aoife O’Sullivan has tamed her coloratura, they too will shine; the small orchestra under Andrew Griffiths’s direction played immaculately.

Just as unexpected, but much more successful, was the first of a series of five concerts given in the tiny 60-seater Forge by the Berkeley Ensemble. This talented group of four wind-players and a pianist is named after Sir Lennox Berkeley and his son Michael, and it champions music by them plus that of other British composers which in their view is unjustly neglected.

‘Stealing, Borrowing, Remembering’ was their concert’s title; its guiding thread was Mozart’s ‘Quintet for piano and winds’, which had directly or indirectly inspired everything else in the programme.

Poulenc’s ‘Sonata for clarinet and bassoon’ was followed by Sir Lennox’s gracefully neo-classical piano-and-winds quintet; Michael Berkeley’s severely atonal ‘Fierce Tears II’ followed John Woolrich’s allusive ‘Favola in Musica I’. A stimulating evening.

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power