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)
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre