...delightfully funny... strongly sung... spirited style

The Oxford Times, 22 July 2011

Cimarosa’s first major opera is an engaging and light-hearted romp, and Bampton Classical Opera’s production at The Deanery Garden last weekend teased out the silliness of the plot to great effect. The story takes place in a single day at a somewhat seedy London hotel — here updated to the 1980s — and revolves around minor English aristocrat Milord Arespingh and Livia, the Italian girl he jilted in Genoa because his father has another bride lined up for him. When Livia turns up in London disguised as French waitress Henriette, she soon has three men vying for her attention — the Dutch salesman Sumers, Italian tourist Don Polidoro and Milord himself, who quickly sees through her disguise.

Meanwhile, Madama Brillante, the hotel proprietress, takes a fancy to Polidoro. Growing jealous of Polidoro’s interest in Livia, she tricks him into believing that Livia has a bloodstone that renders her invisible, and encourages him to declare his love to the unseen ‘Henriette’. The joke gets even better when Polidoro finds a bloodstone that he believes makes him invisible, and he eavesdrops on the two women, blissfully unaware that he can be seen.

The delightfully funny new translation by Jeremy Gray and Gilly French was occasionally lost in the exceptionally windy conditions, but the cast of five did their valiant best. Nicholas Merryweather tickled all the comic senses with his larger-than-life portrayal of the gullible Polidoro, grabbing the lion’s share of the laughs with his misplaced confidence that he had discovered the secret of invisibility. Robert Winslade Anderson was a wonderfully urbane Milord and Kim Sheehan (pictured with him above) a strongly-sung Livia, and both produced some movingly passionate and poignant moments. Adam Tunnicliffe (an Oxford graduate, incidentally) was full of youthful charm as Sumers, while Caryl Hughes had fun as the flirtatious and mischievous Madama. The orchestra played in spirited style under conductor Thomas Blunt. As always with Bampton Classical Opera, this production was an absolute treat.

Nicola Lisle