Of all the movers and shakers in British musical life there’s none so dynamic as the boss of Grange Park Opera, Wasfi Kani, whose new country-house venue at West Horsley near Guildford has just opened with (inter alia) a punch-packing production of Janáček’s Jenůfa.
In barely a year Kani has built, from scratch, a 750-seat opera theatre that resembles a miniature La Scala, and filled it with a summer season.
That the theatre isn’t wholly finished hardly matters: it’s a fabulous achievement, and it worked for Jenůfa, which was superbly cast, with singers such as Nicky Spence (a force of nature on stage despite a Donald Trump wig) as Steva, and Susan Bullock as the Kostelnička.
The Kostelnička, a church official who turns murderess out of misguided love, is the key role in this opera, commonly portrayed with cartoon-like severity. But Bullock turns it into a sort of Julie Walters role: tough but human, and profoundly so.
I missed the throbbing textural richness that the score asks of the orchestra, and fear the pit may be too deep for good projection. But the next phase of the building programme can address that. Generally this theatre is a thing to welcome and celebrate, in a setting that’s already magical. A must-see.
Palazzetto Bru Zane is a music foundation dedicated to the idea that vast tracts of forgotten French repertoire can be essential experiences if delivered with love, care and style; and it’s been running Festival Palazzetto Bru Zane à Paris, a festival of that kidney in the city of love. It’s based around composers whose names wouldn’t get the average Brit out of bed for an early Eurostar – but are nonetheless of substance.
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