This year’s Grimeborne Festival at The Arcola Theatre has a somewhat different look to previous years in that there is little by way of new or experimental work in progress. Instead the programme is comprised of a collection of popular and lesser known works ranging from Handel’s Furioso to Verdi’s Rigoletto. Week two begins with two one act works, Bastien et Bastienne by the 12 year old Amadeus Mozart, and Wolf-Ferrari’s Susanna’s Secret.
David Eaton has cleverly translated this Mozart gem to a more modern setting with the attention seeking Bastien risking his love, Bastienne, by visiting club-land overnight and not returning until well into the following morning. Dr Fels works his magic by advising both parties how to repair the damage done to the relationship. The result is an interesting interpretation giving new life to this naïve 12 year old’s work. John Savournin gives a crystal clear performance as the Doctor with musical precision, excellent diction and fine acting. David Menezes sings a fair Bastien but lacks the emotional range the role demands. The piece is ultimately unconvincing, in part due to the rather stolid Bastienne (Grace Power), but equally to the awkward and rather meaningless combination of a poor design and flat direction.
Christopher Jacklin and Georgia Ginsberg provide a well matched couple as the Count and Susanna in Wolf-Ferrari’s delightful one act piece. Concerned that he is being cuckolded by Susanna, the Count, smelling French tobacco smoke in their salon, sets about uncovering who she is seeing, only to discover that her secret is that she has become addicted to cigarettes. Both the singers give fine performances and are convincing in their roles, their singing of the duet “Do you remember” is very moving indeed. John Savournin again appears in this piece as their butler, a non-singing role, which he discharges with great aplomb. This is a really polished and well directed piece of work, and in it Nina Brazier redeems herself as a director. David Eaton’s performance at the piano in both operas is of the highest order however he needs to be careful that he does not allow his natural ebullience to produce too high a volume causing the singers to struggle to be heard.