The Magic Flute, Wormsley Estate, Buckinghamshire
Go Traviata, Hackney Wick, London

When Garsington packed the removal van it took Mozart, Rossini and Vivaldi. But there is scope for more surprising music now

Just 15 miles separate Garsington Manor from the verdant parkland of the Wormsley Estate, yet Robin Snell's Japanese-influenced opera pavilion is a world away from the village fete atmosphere of Garsington Opera's former home.

Sleek, spacious and flooded with light, the 600-seat glass, steel and timber structure has a broad, deep stage and a pristine acoustic. But if the 21-year-old opera company is to do justice to its £1.7m investment, it will have to alter its artistic planning to suit. With a theatre like this, something braver and wilder than this season's cosy trio of Mozart, Rossini and Vivaldi operas is needed.

Olivia Fuchs's production of The Magic Flute straddles Garsington's before and after, making full use of the new space while retaining something of the intimacy of the old tented canopy. Umbrellas – or parasols – feature heavily as the low-slung disc that dominates Niki Turner's set shifts from the turmeric sunshine of Sarastro's domain to the mackerel-skin moonlight of the Queen of the Night. The monster that overwhelms Tamino is a scudding bolt of scarlet silk, Pamina's prison a bathtub full of rose-petals. With design accents borrowed from American Beauty and Ghost World, and a bicycle-riding Papageno in a dayglo kilt and ginger Mohican, there's little visual coherence. The hippie-trippy aspect struck me as a lazy analogue – Papageno as a pothead, rather than the everyman of Schikaneder's Vienna. But the relationships are wittily detailed between and within each group of good, bad and ambiguous characters.

From the leather-clad Ladies to the pyjama-clad Boys, the ensemble singing is superb. William Berger's fidgety Papageno and Robert Murray's laddish Tamino spar agreeably, while Sophie Bevan's Pamina has warmth, spirit and beauty. Kim Sheehan's Queen and Evan Boyer's Sarastro register well, as do Iain Paton's Monastatos, Ruth Jenkins's Papagena and the vibrant young chorus. Every word of Jeremy Sams' translation is crisp, and though conductor Martin André seemed often to revise his tempi mid-number, the orchestral playing is clear and characterful. It's (high) standard stuff for Garsington in an exceptional new theatre. Now bring on the Strauss, the Janacek, the Massenet, the Puccini.

Go Opera's debut production takes the pop-up principle to a bleak industrial estate in east London with Go Traviata, an 85-minute version of Verdi's tragedy. The model is sub fusc immersive, the venue a secret known only to ticket-holders. Hackney, the programme notes tell us, is "the most rich ground in London for neo-colonial fetishistic ruin banter". Hmm. As a veteran of Graham Vick's work with the Birmingham Opera Company, I was excited by the possibility of "allowing the intensities of La traviata and Hackney Wick to interact". But the night workers at the Mr Meat and Chicken warehouse opposite kept a rueful distance from Violetta's salon.

For a site-specific production launched on a blast of revolutionary aspiration, Rosalind Parker's staging is remarkably conventional. The look is monochrome May Ball, with a hint of urban grit from the wire framework that lines the warehouse walls. Video projections aside, there's little sense of Hackney in Go Traviata and even less of the demi-monde. Condensing the score into 85 minutes is easy. Establishing the characters when there's no space for acting between arias is harder. No sooner has Violetta sung her manifesto of hedonism than up pops Alfredo in riding gear, with a bucolic video backdrop for his Act II aria, closely followed by Germont, towering over the A12. I must have missed the bit where Alfredo and Violetta fall in love. As to the fatal tuberculosis, Violetta is so busy singing that she has no time to cough until she coughs her last.

With the exception of Elinor Jane Moran's bright, engaging Annina, Go Traviata is Joanna Weeks' show. She sings the title role with a handsome tone and impeccable technique but has little support in navigating Violetta's journey from hard-nosed gaity to reckless passion and self-abnegation. A stylish character tenor, Alistair Digges's Alfredo signals distress by bouncing on his feet and flapping his arms, while James Hancock's Germont growls and blusters alarmingly. Their sketchiness may have been deliberate, part of Violetta's feverish imagining, but I doubt it. Directing from the piano with a spindly violin obbligato, Michael Waldren maintains pulse and purpose. The simplest moments are the strongest, though too many of Verdi's shades of grey – the bitterness, the pragmatism – are lost in the editing. There's promise here. But Go Opera needs to work harder if it wants to be more than a friends-and-family project.

'The Magic Flute' (01865 361636) to 5 Jul; 'Go Traviata' (goopera.co.uk) to Sat

Next Week:

Anna Picard sees Stephen Barlow's production of Don Pasquale open the Opera Holland Park season

Classical Choice

Dmitri Tcherniakov's ENO production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra opens with Bruno Caproni in the title role at the Coliseum, London (from Wed). Edward Gardner conducts. Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra launch the 64th Aldeburgh Festival at Snape Maltings with Messiaen and Mahler (Fri).

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?