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Cherevichki review at Garsington Oxfordshire

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Over the years Garsington has performed an invaluable service in bringing rare foreign operas to British audiences and this first professional UK staging of Tchaikovsky’s only comedy – usually known as The Empress’s Slippers – is its latest such enterprise.

Singing a comedy in the original Russian, however, does dampen its communicative possibilities. English would have been a better option.

It is a varied score, with folk-derived numbers, dance scenes and grotesque, even bawdy comedy. Conductor Elgar Howarth ensures high musical standards all round.

Olivia Fuchs’s staging, to clever designs by Niki Turner, gives us much of the spirit of this fantastical tale of a rural Ukraine visited by the devil and including a magic flight to the Empress’s palace in St Petersburg.

The weaker parts of the production are right at the centre. Neither Anne-Sophie Duprels’ village coquette Oksana nor Adrian Dwyer’s fervent lover Vakula quite hit the vocal spot and there is little chemistry between them.

But there are splendid performances from Roderick Earle as an urbane and mischievous Devil and from the irrepressible Frances McCafferty as Vakula’s mother Solokha – a widow much in demand amongst the menfolk in this particular Ukrainian village. The talented young D’Arcy Bleiker makes his mark as Potemkin in the St Petersburg scene.

It is a little slow to get going but the second half is great fun, carrying the piece and the audience along to a joyous finish. Garsington shows this neglected opera to have real life in it.

Production Information

Garsington, Oxfordshire , June 15-July 9

Composer
Tchaikovsky
Director
Olivia Fuchs
Producer
Garsington Opera
Cast includes
Anne-Sophie Duprels, Adrian Dwyer, Roderick Earle, Frances McCafferty
Running time
4hrs
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