Posts Tagged ‘George von Bergen’

Le Nozze di Figaro, Opera Holland Park, OHP, July 2011

9 July, 2011

I’ve never seen this before — not Figaro, I mean, but such extensive choreography, and I don’t just mean movement among the performers. There were chainé turns as servants enter and exit the stage, along with the occasional pas-de-deux, all very well rehearsed and executed. The Crazy Day is the other title for Beaumarchais’ original play, and this production by Liam Steel, who also did the choreography, certainly gave full rein to the craziness. There was a great deal of busy movement and kissing between servants during the overture, and when two women got together — one dressed as a man — I took this to indicate the libidinous nature of the Count’s household, though in fact the servant en travesti later turned out to be Cherubino.

Near the end of Act II, all photos by Fritz Curzon

For a lively production of Figaro with minimal but effective sets, one could hardly do better. The performers moved and so did the furniture. A legless dining table, occasional table, chair and decapitated mirror join in the choreography, and when someone needed to be seated, the chair helpfully moved into place. It was all rather fun, and Matthew Willis did a fine job in the orchestra pit, giving plenty of zip to Mozart’s music.

Elizabeth Llewellyn and Jane Harrington as the Countess and Susanna

As to the singing, when Elizabeth Llewellyn came on as the Countess in Act II, with her cavatina Porgi, amor asking for love, the whole performance went up a couple of notches. She was terrific, and her Act III soliloquy Dove sono i bei momenti when she laments the apparent loss of her husband’s affections was beautifully done. Jane Harrington gave a lively and strongly sung performance of Figaro’s fiancée Susanna, and George von Bergen, whom I remember as an excellent Macbeth in Bloch’s opera of that name two years ago, was an admirably solid presence as the Count. Matthew Hargreaves, who was an excellent Leporello in Holland Park’s Don Giovanni last year, gave a similar performance here as Figaro, but I felt he lacked the vocal depth and bearing this senior servant of the Count’s household should have. Hannah Pedley clearly relished her role as Cherubino, and Barbarina was prettily sung and played by Jaimee Marshall, who was also a very effective partner in one of the pas-de-deux. Lynton Black was an amusing Dr. Bartolo, with a brilliant facial tick when he finds that Figaro is his own son, Sarah Pring was excellent as his wife Marcellina, and Andrew Glover was a fine Don Basilio and Don Curzio.

By the time we were in Act IV it was fully dark outside and Colin Grenfell’s lighting on stage worked beautifully. There were even fireworks heard from afar, giving an effective end to The Crazy Day.

Performances continue every other day until July 16 — for details click here.

Macbeth, by Ernest Bloch, University College Opera, March 2009

26 March, 2009


Bloch was a Swiss musician who later moved to the west coast of America, and this is his only opera. It was first performed in Paris in 1910, to a libretto in French by Edmond Fleg, but forty years later Bloch set it to an English text using some of Shakespeare’s original words. This is its first staging in Britain, though there was a concert performance at the Festival Hall in 1975, heavily cut and sung in French! The melodious and atmospheric music was well conducted by Charles Peebles, and some of the singing was excellent. George van Bergen was terrific as Macbeth, as was Katherine Rohrer as Lady Macbeth. Hal Brindley did very well as Malcolm, and Richard Rowe and Carl Gombrich did well as Banquo and Macduff, with Louise Kemeny as a strong Lady Macduff. The only really weak performance was by Ryland Davies as Duncan, yet oddly enough he was the only principal announced on the title page of the programme. The relatively simple staging by John Ramster worked well, with atmospheric lighting by Jake Wiltshire, and excellent designs and modern costumes by Bridget Kimak that placed most of the men in army uniforms. Altogether this was well worth seeing, and I applaud University College Opera for putting it on.