Your clickable banner could be here: details
    If you cannot see an advert immediately above this line click here.

Editor: Marc Bridle


Webmaster: Len Mullenger



WWW MusicWeb

Search Music Web with FreeFind

Any Review or Article


Seen and Heard Opera Review


Tchaikovsky, Charodeika (The Enchantress), Grange Park Opera, 13th June 2004 (H-T W)

Of all the English Country House Opera Festivals the Grange Park Opera Festival in Hampshire is, artistically, neither standing still nor declining, but going from strength to strength with enormous speed. Founded only seven years ago by the energetic Wasfi Kani (formerly of Garsington Opera and artistic director of Pimlico Opera), this season saw the completion of its small, but perfectly balanced opera house with its warm 500-seat horseshoe auditorium, based on the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds. Built in the former Orangery, and with a versatile stage sunk into the ground by about two meters, it is very well hidden behind the splendid reconstruction of the 19th century façade by the architect Robert Smirke, which connects the Greek temple "The Grange" with the Orangery.

Grange Park Opera is unique in every sense – the auditorium even offers an extensive miniature railway system, which runs under the entire glass covered floor of the foyer. Each carriage and each engine carries the name of an appeal donor, while the supporters are divided into the Schools of Hippocrates, Archimedes and Plato. Its idyllic setting, landscaped by Capability Brown, seems miles away from civilization, its spooky restaurant in the main building, where the ceilings are covered with nettings because of the old stucco decoration, which has long fallen into decay, and the extremely friendly and relaxed atmosphere, and not least its repertoire of three diverse new productions each year, makes a visit a worthwhile experience. None of the Country House Operas can always guarantee uninterrupted sunshine combined with the highest possible musical standard – quite often it is sadly the opposite. But on this very day everything turned out to be just perfect.

Tchaikovsky wrote nine operas, of which only "Eugene Onegin" and "Pique Dame" are part of the general repertoire. "Charodeika" – "The Enchantress" - which had its premiere at the Marinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on the 20th October 1887, had never crossed my path before. In this case, it was the first UK performance in Russian. It turned out to be one of those rare operatic treats one is actually never really prepared for. It is a work of Verdian dimensions and Russian soul, full of high voltage drama and exceptional music, staged, cast and interpreted to perfection in this performance. I have never experienced a Russian opera which mirrored the true Russia, where everything is bigger than life. The story is simple: Nastasia, the charming and very pretty owner of an inn and brothel near Nizhny Novgorod, had made herself an enemy in rejecting the scheming Mamirov, the right hand of the local supremo Nikita Kurliatev. He spreads the rumour that Nastasia is an enchantress as every man falls for her. Nikita’s son Yuri begins to frequent the inn, so does his father, who falls madly in love with Nastasia without any success threatening her that he would reach his goal. Of course, Mamirov has nothing better to do than to confront Nikita’s wife Evpraksia with the truth, while her son – not yet personally involved with Nastasia – swears to avenge his mother. While confronting Nastasia he learns that it is he whom she loves. They both plan to flee during the night not knowing that, by now, Mamirov has worked out an elaborate plot to wreak his revenge on Nastasia as well as on Nikita and his family with devastating effect.

"The Enchantress", for which Ippolit W. Shpazhinsky wrote the libretto, has never been a success with Russian audiences. It shows Tchaikovsky’s genius from a completely unusual side combing his very own style with the grandeur and drama of Verdi. When Nastasia prepares herself for being murdered by the only person she loves, one is reminded of Desdemona’s last aria in ‘Otello’. His delicate instrumentation, the constant change between big arias and ravishing ensemble scenes are breathtaking. It would have been a great help, however, to have had an article on the performance history of this opera included in the heavy program book, instead of a lengthy treatise about the dubious circumstances of Tchaikovsky’s death.

David Fielding, responsible for production and design, as well as his lighting designer Wolfgang Goebbel, created a contemporary Russian spectacle of sheer exuberance, be it in life or death. The casting could not have been better anywhere.  Janis Kelly was indeed a beautiful erotic, temperamental and in every respect credible Nastasia – something rare nowadays. And next to the main roles – Nikita (Vassily Savenko), Evpraksia (Carole Wilson), Yuri (Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts) and Mamirov (Stephen Richardson) -  everybody was outstanding. The last scene, when Mamirov triumphs over a self inflicted bloodbath, resembled a Last Judgement painted by Dali.

But the success of this overwhelming experience would have been unthinkable without the clarity and commitment of the sixty-two strong orchestra under David Lloyd-Jones. The slightest detail was audible – and it is the detail and its beauty which I admired in this opera the most. Moreover, everybody on stage could easily develop without being covered by a heavy sound coming from the pit. I never expected that this intimate opera house would be capable of such a brilliant balance. An unforgettable evening which I have not experienced anywhere for many years.

Hans-Theodor Wohlfahrt   

Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page 






MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here


Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.