Preview: May Night, Garsington, Oxfordshire

Rimsky with Cossacks on a summer night

Country-house opera companies aren't just about swank and exclusivity: they can take risks that the big companies can't. When Rimsky-Korsakov's May Night is given an airing at Garsington next week, an obscure gem will be held up to view.

Based on a Gogol short story, this lighthearted work harks back, via Glinka, to the European composers who gave 19th-century Russian music its primary impetus; the commedia dell'arte plot inhabits the world of Figaro, L'elisir d'amore and The Bartered Bride. It is, says that eloquent champion of Russian music Gerard McBurney, "quintessentially the product of a young composer in the springtime of his career, writing a piece which is delightful, funny, and with the most beautiful melodies."

Direction will be in the hands of Olivia Fuchs, recently responsible for a stylish A Midsummer Night's Dream at Covent Garden and a veteran rescuer of underrated Russian works.

Levko and Hanna are in love, but Levko's father - the mayor - wants her for himself. Tensions are resolved by a friendly water-sprite, thus tapping into one of Russian folklore's favourite myths. Or, rather, Ukrainian, since that is where this village drama takes place.

"We've updated it from 1880 to 1930," says Fuchs. "It's still in a Ukrainian village, but while the mayor is a traditional Cossack, the bureaucrats are Soviet." So she's given it a new political dimension? "I've just emphasised something that was there already - a generation gap, with young people determined not to be told by the mayor what to do." So for them Soviet reality is liberating? "I suppose so." Weren't the kulaks being wiped out at about this time? "Not in our production. Nor are we presenting collectivisation." No, this will be upbeat history.

And with a cast of rising young stars, on a set that will trade on the irresistible charm of bucolic Russian life. "Our designs will evoke the world of Chagall, and there will be little houses like Russian dolls, coming out of each other to create a village, with a big triptych house and a tower full of icons and candles. Here the Old Believers still rule."

13 June to 11 July (01865 361 636; www.garsington.org)

Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices