The Love for Three Oranges, Grange Park, Hampshire
Capriccio, Grange Park, Hampshire
Susan Bullock, St Bartholomew’s Church, Sydenham

Two operatic oddities, and a request to sponsor body parts, lift the spirits at Grange Park

Petit Trianon to Glyndebourne’s Versailles, Grange Park Opera is more attuned to the times than it might appear.

Instead of sponsoring roles for next season’s operas, patrons are now invited to sponsor body parts. (Isolde’s head is still up for grabs.) Even the dress code has been relaxed for a few performances, albeitwith injunctions to “wear fabulous shoes!” or “raid the attic dressing-up box!”. At this rate, we’ll be bidding for vital organs next year, while a doner kebab van idles on the lawn. Or will we? Ticket sales for the 2010 season are up, and with Tosca as its recession-busting banker, Grange Park is fielding two operatic oddities, Capriccio and The Love for Three Oranges.

Director-designer David Fielding’s production of Prokofiev’s jazz-age commediafable is a giddy, gawky, rowdy affair. Combative choruses, sung from the auditorium, clamour for tragedy, comedy, lyric drama and farce – the last of which prevails. Vomiting “tragic prose and boring verse”, complaining of a cough and diagnosed with incurable melancholia by a team of identical doctors in Sigmund Freud masks, the Prince (Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts) is condemned to search for love in citrus form when he laughs at Fata Morgana (Rebecca Cooper), the bad fairy who wants to depose the King of Clubs (Clive Bayley) and vanquish his sorcerer supporter, Tchelio (Vuyani Mlinde). “Gueule chance!” as the libretto says.

Energy is the key to this whirling, swirling, silly bagatelle, though Fielding’s circus and cabaret imagery loses cohesion when Dr Who’s Tardis appears on stage and the three Princesses (Rosie Bell, Lilly Papaioannou and Belinda Williams) emerge from giant Innocent juice cartons. Much of the zest comes from young conductor Leo Hussain, who whips the English Chamber Orchestra into a rat-a-tat frenzy in the brazen March and crazy-mirror Scherzo. A dab-hand at neurotic nerds, Lloyd-Roberts imbues the Prince with a welcome dash of desperate pathos, though Wynne Evans steals the show as his comic side-kick, Trouffaldino, with a suitcase of rubber chickens.

Capriccio is arguably weaker than The Love for Three Oranges. Strauss’s sublime opening string sextet and exquisite closing monologue frame a rambling, repetitive debate on the relationship of words and music and the purpose of opera – a light dinner-party conversation decorated by references to Gluck, Beaumarchais and Couperin, and set in the last years before the French Revolution.

Just as the 1916 version of Ariadne represented a flight from reality, so does this 1942 Rococo fantasy. But Stephen Medcalf's delicate 1940s production makes Capriccio a valediction to pre-fascist Germany, the elderly composer's sorrow, bafflement and nostalgia conveyed in the tender face of the Countess (Susan Gritton) as she takes her place on a scruffy rehearsal stage and listens to the music curling up from the orchestra pit. Beneath the stage hides the prompter, Monsieur Taupe (Stuart Kale), with a Star of David chalked on the back of his suit. Beyond the dressing-room doors (designs and lighting by Francis O'Connor and Peter Mumford), Munich is in ruins.

Under Stephen Barlow's calm, steady beat, the opulent orchestral score unfolds sweetly and clearly. Torn between the poet Olivier (Roderick Williams) and the composer Flamand (Andrew Kennedy), the Countess plans a divertissement with the pompous theatre director La Roche (Matthew Best), teases her brother (Quirijn de Lang) over his infatuation with the actress Clairon (Sara Fulgoni), and is entertained by a dancer (Bryony Perkins) and two preposterous Italian singers (Sally Johnson and Wynne Evans).

Spectacular effects and grand historical subjects are discussed in a tiny 18th-century theatre with wave machines. Period costumes are donned and discarded, hot chocolate and pannetone are served, the Countess's romantic crisis finally deferred to another day. Nothing happens but every detail is thoughtful and unobtrusive, the singing impassioned and enchantingly blended. Rarely has such an apparently flimsy work been so poignant.

St Bartholomew's Church, Sydenham, was transformed into the Villa Wesendonck during Susan Bullock's performance of Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder with conductor Robert Trory and the St Bartholomew Festival Orchestra last weekend.

Scratch bands don't come finer than this (sharp-eyed listeners will have spotted principals from the LSO, LPO and Philharmonia), or local festivals more ambitious than Sydenham Music. Luxuriant of tone and gloriously firm, Bullock's voice is thrilling at close range, losing none of its edge, sophistication or sensuality at the softest dynamic. Felix Mottl's orchestration of Wagner's narcotic love songs leaves one wanting to hear the Liebestod, but Trory's breezy account of Ravel's orchestral fancy, Le Tombeau de Couperin, led instead to a selection from Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne. No need for angst here, just blissed-out portamento and sun-warmed simplicity. Bullock's Wagnerian career may have swept her past such girlish repertoire, but her voice is still nimble and true. Encores of "O mio babbino caro" and an unaccompanied Welsh folk-song were sensational.

'The Love for Three Oranges': (01962 737366) to 4 Jul. 'Cap-riccio': (01962 737366) to 2 Jul

Next Week:

Anna Picard heads for Cardiff and Bryn Terfel's debut as Hans Sachs in Richard Jones's WNO production of Die Meistersinger

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory