2021 Season Reviews
"Miah Persson’s Marschallin looks and sounds radiant and regal, while Hanna Hipp’s Octavian is the very image of handsome young masculinity, insecure and bursting with ardour."
Michael Church, The Independent, 6 June 2021
"Derrick Ballard in glorious voice, wigged and stuffed-shirted, as the awful Ochs"
"Hanna Hipp’s ideal, vivacious Octavian was well matched by Madison Leonard’s free-spirited Sophie. More than doubling the usual impact of this cameo role, Annina was given stunning comic style by Kitty Whately. Jordan de Souza, at Garsington for the first time, conducted with pace and panache."
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 13 June
"Ballard’s timbre was magnificent, his acting perfect and he filled his character as Strauss would have dreamt of."
Simon Heffer, The Telegraph, 20 June
"This Rosenkavalier is not only a tribute to the standards now achievable by the best of country house opera, but also to their resilience. Garsington is back with a show that’s a joy to the ears, and a feast for the eyes."
David Mellor, The Daily Mail, 5 June 2021
"Garsington continues its artistic ascent with this new production of Der Rosenkavalier"
George Hall, The Stage, 14 June 2021
"Bruno Ravella’s new production nailed the mix of fantasy, tender nostalgia and vulgarity that makes the work treasurable."
"The final scenes wring the heart as they should, helped by the radiant and rhythmically supple playing of the orchestra, under the hand of young Canadian conductor Jordan de Souza. He is clearly one to watch."
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, 3 June 2021
"Persson is a most wonderful Marschallin, sounding and looking lovely, delivering both text and line with understated refinement, so that every word and emotional shift really register."
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 3 June 2021
"Every detail is perfectly observed, a witty delight from start to finish, and still very touching."
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 4 June 2021
"Opening the season at Garsington, Der Rosenkavalier feels like a glorious rebirth of lyrical pleasures."
"With Miah Persson radiant as the Marschallin, Hanna Hipp offering a strong-voiced Octavian and the young American soprano Madison Leonard dazzling as a wilful Sophie, the vital love triangle is poignantly conveyed."
Richard Morrison, The Times, 3 June 2021
"No UK production of the past 50 years, even Visconti’s at Covent Garden, has a comparable wow factor ... The cast is headed by the Swedish soprano Miah Persson, whose first Marschallin surpasses every expectation aroused by her Countess in Capriccio here three summers ago. To her silvery Mozartian tone she adds a patina of gold that recalls the great Viennese interpreters of the 1950s, Schwarzkopf, Della Casa and Jurinac, and she delivers the text and music with a truthfulness and sincerity that takes the breath away."
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 13 June
"This company has come roaring back after the Covid closure, supercharged."
"Musically this is a perfect partnership, the warmth and colour of Hipp’s mezzo a delicious complement to Persson’s silvery soprano."
Stephen Pritchard, bachtrack, 7 June 2021
"There’s Hanna Hipp’s Octavian: as boyish as you like, channelling all that youthful verve into rich-toned, thrillingly ardent singing ... There’s Madison Leonard’s bouncy, debutante-ish Sophie, whose pearlescent soprano made a very believable vocal representation of a girl who believes she’s tumbled into a fairy tale, even after the rudest of comedowns. And of course there’s Persson, whose measured phrasing and ability to convey and then conceal intense emotion in the turn of a cadence was genuinely (and there’s no higher compliment in this role) aristocratic."
"After manspreading his way around the Marschallin’s boudoir like a carrot-topped game-cock, Derrick Ballard came right out and owned his vulgarity in Act Two. This is the kind of man who wears red socks to his own betrothal. That voice, though: a huge, full-bodied port-wine gravy of a bass-baritone, sloshed in great savoury glugs over every scene in which he appeared."
Richard Bratby, The Spectator, 12 June 2021
"Production designs by Gary McCann were spectacular and bold, especially in the finale which featured a breathtaking coup de théâtre at the Marchallin’s arrival, while Ravella’s solutions to the scenario’s blind alleys were unfailingly witty and resourceful."
Mark Valencia, Musical America, 4 June 2021
"Diese Inszenierung von Bruno Ravella mit den kongenialen Bühnenbildern in farbenfrohem Rokoko-Pop-Amalgam hebt sich von allen anderen, die ich an den großen Opernhäusern der Welt zu sehen bekam, in dreierlei Hinsicht positiv ab: Liebe zu ebenso intelligenten wie originellen Details, jugendliche Frische und sängerische Strahlkraft. Geradezu übermütig ist diese Inszenierung in ihrer Komik – als ob die Darsteller nach der zweijährigen, Covid-bedingten Spielpause mit potenziertem Enthusiasmus auf die Bühne eilten!"
Charles Ritterband, Klassik begeistert, 9 June 2021
"Kathleen Wilkinson’s old nursemaid Filippyevna is a stunning portrayal, in every bar a creature of the Steppes, while Matthew Rose’s thunderous incarnation of Prince Gremin is a magnificent tour de force. Colin Judson’s solo as Triquet is as sweet as could be desired. Liz Ranken’s choreography ... has tremendous verve, as indeed has the whole evening. The chorus are in fine form."
Michael Church, The Independent, 6 June 2021
"Garsington Opera’s revival of Michael Boyd’s Eugene Onegin is a magical rendering of Tchaikovsky’s best-known opera."
Edward Bhesania, The Stage, 7 June 2021
"Moldovan soprano Natalia Tanasii, making her role, house and British opera debut, is a very exciting new talent. Her rich and creamy soprano, variety of expression, sensitive dynamics and dramatic subtlety make Tatyana's journey from girlhood to womanhood poignant and believable. Natalia Tanasii is a name to remember and to listen out for in future."
Claudia Pritchard, Culture Whisper, 7 June
"Douglas Boyd conducted a sensuous account of the score."
"It was baritone Jonathan McGovern who gave this Eugene Onegin its backbone with an account of the title role that bristled with intelligence and glowed with burnished vocal beauty."
Mark Valencia, Musical America, 4 June 2021
"Peasant harvesters enter from the facsimile of Lady Ottoline Morrell’s Garsington garden to the right (stage left) of the state-of-the-art pavilion and, splendidly led by a solo tenor (Dominick Felix), burst into song. The temptation is to burst into tears, for this is the first time, surely, any of us has heard a rich, full chorus live for over a year."
"From the pit, the Philharmonia players, a day after their Festival Hall triumph with Esa-Pekka Salonen, sound as lush as you could possibly want in Tchaikovsky’s glorious score."
David Nice, The Arts Desk, 6 June 2021
"Douglas Boyd gave Tchaikovsky’s glorious score a sensitive interpretation, showing great care for both the tempi and the singers ..."
"Moldovan soprano Natalia Tanasii was a terrific Tatyana. Her clear-voiced impetuosity in the letter scene turned to regretful resolve to follow her duty as the beautiful and intelligent wife of Prince Gremin, when Onegin reappears years later. Ms Tanasii well exhibited Tatyana’s solitary bookishness from the start, in stark contrast to the brilliant performance of British-Singaporean mezzo Fleur Barron as her more frivolous sister, Olga. Ms Barron was superb both on and off the ball, as they say in football, her facial expressions and seductively flippant bearing speaking volumes."
Mark Ronan, The Article, 14 June 2021
"The mezzo Sonja Runje is outstanding in a title role, a natural in an unnatural genre, sustaining lines with smooth, resinous tone and moving nimbly. Rhian Lois is a bright, sparky Oriana, and their Act 3 duet is a poignant highlight of the score."
"The English Concert plays crisply under the conductor Christian Curnyn ... there is never a dull moment in this music."
John Allison, Daily Telegraph, 20 June 2021
"Handel's magic opera casts its spell"
"In her new production for Garsington Opera, the director-designer Netia Jones puts on a winning show ... she gives us visual spectacle yet focuses on the central human drama"
"Countertenor Tim Mead’s chain-smoking prince scores some of the most beautiful singing of the evening"
Rebecca Franks, The Times, 21 June 2021
"Superb singing: Soprano Anna Devin invests Melissa with crackling fury opposite the silver-toned soprano Rhian Lois as Oriana"
"We should treasure the festival for glorious music such as this"
Michael Church, i News, 21 June 2021
"Handel’s inventive score receives high-quality presentation from the musicians of the period-instrument orchestra the English Concert, playing their first opera at Garsington, with conductor Christian Curnyn on firm, yet flexible, form."
George Hall, The Stage, 21 June 2021
"It was the easily-deciphered beauty, majesty and tenderness of top-notch Handel that made the twilit Chilterns ring"
Boyd Tonkin, The Arts Desk, 27 June 2021
"Garsington’s new production and designs, by Netia Jones, with brilliant lighting by Jake Wiltshire and mesmerising choreography by Anna Morrissey, stayed faithful to the 18th century love of spectacle whilst creating a stage experience that is modern without crassness or superfluity."
Melanie Eskenazi, Music OMH, 25 June 2021
Le Comte Ory
"Jack Swanson is a cheeky Ory with zinging high notes and comic flair, and does marvellous vocal battle with Andrea Carroll’s preening, predatory Adèle"
Neil Fisher, The Times, 5 July 2021
"[Le Comte Ory] is a riotous, mad piece by a composer at the height of his power and requires loving, free direction and a superb cast. Thank heavens, then, that Garsington’s new production – the last opera of its 2021 season – has both, seasoned with surrealist sparkle and an infectious joie de vivre"
"Every aspect of the staging is designed to provoke or facilitate humour; the cast reciprocate by throwing themselves utterly into the production."
"Valentina Peleggi in the pit drew a bombastic performance from the Philharmonia"
Dominic Lowe, Bachtrack, 4 July 2021
"The cast is largely excellent, beginning with Andrea Carroll as Countess Adèle, the object of the affections of both Ory and his page Isolier. The diminutive soprano is a Rossinian powerhouse, singing with verve and bringing a dusky lower register to her bright voice ... Katie Bray brings a light, sparky mezzo to her winning Isolier"
"Joshua Bloom brings a resonant bass to the Tutor and Milly Forrest sparkles in the small role of Alice"
"Jacques Imbrailo is a good enough actor to make a compelling Raimbaud, and he sings with baritonal elegance"
John Allison, The Telegraph, 3 July 2021
"The Garsington Chorus is in knock-out form, especially in its complex manoeuvrings in the Act I finale. There is wonderful playing from the Philharmonia, and a high-energy debut from conductor Valentina Peleggi."
George Hall, The Stage, 5 July 2021
"Swanson and Carroll, superb comic actors both, are spectacular in their set-piece arias, which are almost vertiginous in their difficulty. Bray makes a fine Isolier, knowing and spirited, while Imbrailo has tremendous fun with the big scene in which he and Ory’s nuns get drunk with the contents of Adèle’s wine cellar. Joshua Bloom is Ory’s worldweary Tutor, powerless to prevent his charge’s excesses, and the great Patricia Bardon is on terrific form as Adèle’s companion Ragonde. Pellegi conducts with marvellous flair and precision, and the choral singing is excellent: the men, liberated in drag, look as if they’re having the time of their lives"
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 5 July 2021