Preview: May Night, Garsington, Oxfordshire
Rimsky with Cossacks on a summer night
Thursday 01 June 2006
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)
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
- 4 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
- 5 Kanye West halts concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Fifty Shades of Grey movie: New picture of Anastasia Steele unveiled
Star Trek 3 to begin shooting in next six months
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Robin Thicke’s hit 'Blurred Lines' lands him in court, and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'