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Il Segreto di Susanna / Iolanta review at Opera Holland Park – ‘an exceptional double bill’

Richard Burkhard and Clare Presland in Il Segreto di Susanna at Opera Holland Park. Photo: Ali Wright
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The last of Opera Holland Park’s stagings this summer is this double bill of unusual titles: Wolf-Ferrari’s clever little comedy of marital discord and reconciliation and Tchaikovsky’s symbolist fairytale about a blind princess who recovers her sight through falling in love.

Both of them work a treat. John Wilkie’s production of Susanna’s Secret shines in smart and snazzy period visuals by Takis, while the versatile designer switches to abstraction for Olivia Fuchs’ perfectly modulated interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s touching piece of high romantic fantasy.

Both performances are exceptional. Clare Presland brings wit and style to Susanna, whose terrible secret is (spoiler alert) that she’s a smoker. Richard Burkhard frets and fumes as her jealous husband Gil while John Savournin comes within an ace of stealing the show in the silent role of their servant, Sante. John Andrews’ conducting is spick and span; the score is a gem.

The second half takes us into another realm entirely, where Mikhail Svetlov’s grand bass brings authority to Iolanta’s caring father while Natalya Romaniw and David Butt Philip hit the absolute vocal heights as Iolanta and Count Vaudemont, whose love for her sets in motion the miraculous act of healing.

Sian Edwards delivers a thrilling account of the glorious score, and the City of London Sinfonia is on exceptional form in both pieces, with the Opera Holland Park Chorus realising every requirement in Iolanta.

This is Holland Park at its best – an evening that reaches a standard in these pieces that our national companies might struggle to match.

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Opera Holland Park is at the very top of its game in this exceptional double-bill