OPERA NOW REVIEW – Quote from September Issue

Casting for perfection In Cheshire, northwest England, Clonter Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni for the company’s splendid 45th season. Founder Jeffery Lockett’s vision remains as vital and enabling as ever. He is a renderer of first-rate opera, and the fashioner of numerous aspiring young singers whose paths he has guided and smoothed over four decades. The 2019 programme book mapped out Clonter’s complete casts since its inception – an amazing array, from Simon Keenlyside (now Clonter’s President), to Amanda Roocroft, Jonathan Lemalu, Claire Rutter, and an exhausting flow of talent from around the world. Lockett’s three daughters now continue the good work. A hugely experienced duo of music director Clive Timms and director Martin Lloyd-Evans have long guaranteed Clonter’s high standards. For this Giovanni they acquired a young designer, Nate Gibson, whose revolving, tongue-in-cheek set supplied amusement and pastiche. His costumes – Zerlina’s was a classic – enhanced the fun … With typical thoroughness Clonter recruits its young singers from exhaustive auditions nationwide. Its success is obvious: there was no weak link in this year’s cast. Vocal highlights came from Andrew Henley’s Ottavio and Alexandra Lowe as Elvira – furnished by Timms with aptly aching strings. Ottavio’s big Act II aria was the best thing of the evening. But every time Elvira came onstage, we were treated to scrumptious tone, engaging rubato and all the poignancy that the jilted Elvira oozes. Enlivened woodwind shone throughout, bassoon (Linton Stephens) not least.… Stephen Fort delivered much neat comedy as a clutch of amusing extras (barman, taxi driver, hairdresser… you get the idea) before dishing up one of the most shivering fi nales imaginable, surfacing hellishly from a fatal banquet table. Giovanni – ex-Tölz chorister Fabian Langguth – was exquisitely lucid, revelling in appropriately unbelievable slinky arrogance, casually defl owering Zerlina and mercilessly playing along Elvira. New Zealand soprano Eliza Boom made a most agreeable Anna – not too overbearing and genuinely sympathetic. Alexandra Oomens’ bewitched, fragrant, white-booted Zerlina and Jacobo Ochoa’s infuriated Masetto were pure joy, battling often, then touchingly making up. Quartets, Trios, Sextet – all delighted. But it was Simon Grange’s exasperated, shoddily clad Leporello who controlled the shenanigans with assurance, wit and panache.

Roderic Dunnet, Opera Now – September 2019