Mon June 20th - Mon July 4th 2011
The plot is operatically complicated: at the instigation of his beloved mistress, Sultan Mamud agreed to swap his two sons at birth, so that Melindo, Damira’s son, would reign over Cambaia instead of Queen Rustena’s son Zelim. But as the young men reach maturity their father begins to regret giving into Damira’s maternal ambitions, and announces his intention to reveal the truth and restore Zelim to the throne. Matters are further complicated by the presence of Rosane, the princess shortly due to wed Melindo in his position as heir, but also the object of Zelim’s puppy-like devotion.
Musically, the piece is rich in detail, making great demands of the performers but offering less in the way of catchy arias than some of the more frequently-staged operas. For the non-expert, this can be quite heavy going, but the burden is lightened with beautiful, uplifting ensembles and some expressive acting, notably from Diana Montague as the manipulative Damira and Jean Rigby as the emotional, heavy-drinking Rustena - the cast are all strong but the matriarchs steal the show, dominating the stage like ranks of soap-opera barmaids. Individual motifs are skillfully rendered, from the sweetness of Zelim’s (James Laing) sorrowful reflections to the grand distress of a conflicted Rosane (Ida Falk Winland).
Garsington Opera offers a lovely experience overall. Wormsley is a truly beautiful venue, and the pitiless drizzle, whilst causing some discomfort, showed off the wooded valley and informally sculpted surroundings to a perfection of leaden greens and lush greys. Wear sensible shoes.