For two years, shows have been staged in a large plastic bubble on the lawn; now, in the stable block, Ross has erected a 300-seat theatre. There is an intimacy, and the sound is appealing.
The company is an offshoot of Grange Park Opera and, make no mistake, this is one of the coming places for opera. This year, Nevill Holt presented a slick new staging by Martin Constantine of L'Elisir d'amore. It is detailed, well blocked, with countless natty touches for the small chorus. Designed by Lez Brotherston, Act I is a glorious conceit: all greys, it has been shifted to post-war Salford, with smoking factory chimney and factory lasses escaping for a cigarette. Even the witty tea bar, where Nemorino works, is grey. It's a grey life, when you can't get your girl. Nicholas Sharratt plays Nemorino as a delicious no-hoper, with no chance of prising Katherine Wiles's bookish Adina from the tedious Belcore (James McOran Campbell).
Christian Curnyn's conducting drew some beguiling string sounds, horn and bassoon sang, and it looked set to be an outstanding show. Yet Act I, perhaps oversaturated with ideas, was a bit two-dimensional. The principals lacked punch, and the voices just wouldn't take off. Curnyn sometimes let the orchestra overbear, and was hamstrung by a nasty-sounding electronic harpsichord. The chorus was fun, and stole it. But emotions ran thin; one was amused, not engaged.
Freddie Tong's Dulcamara helped to lift the show. He's a deft performer, vocally adept, and his words were cleverly delivered. By the sizzling party and terrific recruiting scene of Act II, we were in a different league. The female chitchat, with whispering timpani and cheeky brass, was hilarious. Sharratt made a warming attempt at "Una furtiva lacrima", Wiles's coloratura blossomed, the factory lit up, and the finale took fire. With Nevill's manor lit up, too, the idyll was complete.Reuse content