This is the second new production of Grange Park Opera’s 2018 season and the theatre itself continues to excite. Exhibiting good sightlines and clean, immediate acoustics, the evolving barrel-like structure this year sports fine external detailing with proper loos in a freestanding ‘lavatorium rotundum’.
Notoriously, Calixto Bieito’s ENO version of Verdi’s A Masked Ball put 14 lavatories on stage. GPO’s, given in Italian with surtitles, eschews anything so radical. Instead, the team behind last year’s high-concept Die Walkure go for another period treatment, nudging the calendar modestly forward from 18th-century Sweden or colonial Boston (censorship forced Verdi himself to relocate) to a newly independent America of flags, uniforms, portraits and beards.
Thanks to careful blocking and ambitious lighting, the action never feels undercooked for all that the set is a thinly disguised version of the galleried space deployed in the Wagner. Ulrica’s hut arrives as a separate downstage unit for Act I, Scene II.
Riccardo is the much-touted, twentysomething Vincenzo Costanzo, his potentially resplendent if as yet rather small tenor occasionally drifting sharp. Tereza Gevorgyan shines in the trouser role of Oscar she sang previously with Opera North, her ambivalent secretary here reconfigured as boyish cowboy. Claire Rutter, last year’s accomplished Sieglinde, is a vibrant and dramatic Amelia. Roland Wood’s Renato, timbrally a mite ungrateful, acquires authority and vividness as Act 3’s instrument of vengeance.
Conducting the orchestra of English National Orchestra, Gianluca Marciano seems initially self-effacing; instrumental solos are nonetheless finely drawn and the choral singing has heft and power.