from Musical Opinion, 2004

Musical Opinion, 2004

Bampton Classical Opera’s triumphant forays into rare repertoire in an Oxfordshire Garden have yielded witty revivals of Storace, Salieri and (this summer) Gazzaniga. For the English Haydn Festival at St. Leonard’s Church, Bridgnorth, Bampton’s inventive director, Jeremy Gray, mounted a modest staging of L’Infedelta delusa whose main assets were some entertaining comic detail, a clutch of useful voices, and sheaves of sizzling, well-honed Haydn playing from the English Haydn Orchestra under the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s young assistant conductor, Jason Lai.

Best of all was the heroine, Vespina (Sinead Pratschke), a ‘girl of spirit’ whose ingenious disguises (yielding the most entertaining music) - finally get her man.

The young tenor Nathan Vale is a rising star too, less for his embryonic acting than for his vocal qualities : there is a marked pathos to the voice, as revealed in his recent song recital for the combined Housman and Ivor Gurney Societies, which came over refreshingly in Nencio’s enchanting aria, carpeted by guitar-like strumming strings.

Haydn’s ensembles shone – including a wonderful quintet (‘bella sera’) and one punchy plotting duet for Vespina and her brother Nanni (Cologne-trained Nicholas Merryweather, a youthful baritone to watch out for). Sandrina’s angry outburst (Cheryl Enever) was suitably shrill.

Given the venue constraints, any staging was of needs limited. But when Gray turned the comic tap up and Vespina donned her successive disguises – notary, elderly crone, tipsy German serving lad - there was much to savour, despite librettist Marco Coltellini’s over-telescoped conclusion. The violins, both muted and at full throttle, and finessed oboes played handsomely, thanks to Jason Lai’s clear-thinking, crisp Haydn pacing.