At home with the Waltons

WILLIAM Walton was the sort of English expatriate who rejected and retained his home culture in equal measure. You hear it in his later scores, which temper bristling English ceremonial style with lazy Mediterranean balm. And you find a surviving token of it at the composer's home, a tourist attraction on Ischia in the Bay of Naples. Walton died in 1983, but his wife Susana maintains the exotic gardens and a small museum of Waltoniana; as you amble through this paradise of tropical vegetation, fountains, waterfalls and mountain views, you'll very likely hear familiar music filtering through the trees. It's Walton's coronation marches coming from the tea-house: Orb And Sceptre, Crown Imperial relayed in all their ermine glory as the scorching Italian sun beats down.

I mention this because the annual Walton Foundation Summer School has just taken place on Ischia, in its inimitably Anglo-Italian way. A sort of house party with a purpose, it brings together young singers from Britain and Italy with proven vocal skills but little stage experience, and coaches them in the theatrical aspects of opera performance. You might ask what that has to do with William Walton. It's a good question: he wasn't specifically an opera composer. But the later years of his life were dominated by one big stage work, Troilus and Cressida, which in its time was deemed a failure and caused him considerable anguish. As he looks down from heaven it must be comforting to see that Troilus has been rehabilitated by Opera North's recent production and superb recording for Chandos - which has just come out, caught with immediacy and brilliance under the conductor Richard Hickox.

For those of us left on earth, the pleasure of the Walton Foundation school is the stand it makes for British finesse in the congenitally rough- and-tumble world of Italian opera. The music director is Martin Isepp, former head of music staff at Glyndebourne. The production director this year was Ian Judge, whose clipped, acerbic wit softened by boulevardier largess gives his work a distinctive colour. And the result was a Cosi fan tutte of memorable sharpness, especially from the Italian mezzo, Gabriella Sborgi. She sang Dorabella with an easy accomplishment that should find her instant work on the world circuit. None of the British contingent was so obviously ready for the world to see and hear. But Sidonie Winter's fulsome if severe Fiordiligi, Ivan Ludlow's matinee-idol Guglielmo, and Christoph Wittmann's heartfelt Ferrando all had definite promise. More importantly, they grew in stature from night to night, edging toward that magical point where stage performance becomes an intrinsic part of the process of singing, and not just something you try to remember to do between arias.

Back in England, there were more young singers of promise at Broomhill, the Victorian pile near Tonbridge, Kent, which has become a summer home for country house opera with attitude. Less elegant, more radical than Glyndebourne or Garsington, it packages new, experimental work with one big established piece that sells on the name of the director; this year the director is Simon Callow, who has worked in opera before, though not extensively. What he does here is a conscientious Il Trittico, which attacks the problem of making Puccini's three mini-operas feel as though they belong together by setting them all in turn-of-the-century designs - including Gianni Schicchi, which becomes a comic take on one of Callow's own films, A Room With a View. They also share a common set which adapts cleverly but rather fussily to each piece, choking the small stage with detail. Beautifully lit by Simon Corder, it all has a rich, decorative opulence that threatens to overwhelm the performances. But the singers fight back - and with a vengeance, because there are some astonishingly good voices in the casts. Christine Bunning soars heart-rendingly into the stratosphere as Suor Angelica; Anthony Marber makes a sober but strong Schicchi; and there's a striking tenor in Il Tabarro called Antoni Garfield Henry, whose Broadway background is too obvious in the voice (as though he'll slip into a Gershwin medley any minute) but provides a gloriously direct and open sound. With cultivation this could be a major operatic talent.

My reservations are that Callow surrenders too easily to the sweetness of these little operas (Suor Angelica is endearingly misprinted in the programme book as Sour Angelica. If only ...) and that Charles Hazelwood's conducting is more show than substance (with pedestrian tempi). But the cut-down orchestral sound from Hazelwood's chamber group Eos is impressive; and in general terms this Trittico argues for Broomhill as a quality enterprise. Last year it was nominated for a Prudential Award but didn't win. It has just been nominated again, and must be a strong contender.

Visitors to London this week included the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, over for the first time in25 years and making its voice heard at a critical point in Australia's cultural realignment from Europe to Asia. The orchestra's Prom on Wednesday was in fact an uneasy mixture of Strauss, Canteloube and the Australian composer Richard Meale, whose Very High Kings is distinctly European: a love-letter to Messiaen and the French avant-garde. But there's no doubting the potential of the SSO to become a very interesting ensemble underEdo de Waart. It hasn't yet the cohesive richness of sound to pull off Strauss's Alpensinfonie, a risky piece, but Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne had an elegant transparency that framed Yvonne Kenny's radiant singing to perfection. And the orchestra certainly has spirit. "Waltzing Mathilda" as an encore went down well with the antipodeans in the audience.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
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?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

    Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

    Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

    Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

    £200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

    Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

    £18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

    Day In a Page

    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
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star