Quixote - 2000
Uses Animal Magic
Masterful Patchwork of Musical Ideas'
REVIEW in the
Sevenoaks Chronical by Mark Fitz-Gerald: Don Quixote performed
by Kentish Opera at the Stag Theatre (Nov 28 - Dec 2)
DON Quixote, Kentish Opera's
autumn production at the Stag, was one of Massenet's last' works,
completed only two years before his death. The score is a masterful
patchwork of musical ideas (very much reflecting the French fascination
of all things Spanish), constantly enhancing and enriching the
action of the opera.
Although memorable, Massenet's musical language is so subtle
that there is very little one can come away humming after a performance.
From the very first scene, director Sally Langford and her team
were filling the stage with life and colour, each surprise and
idea even more delightful than the last, including chickens,
sheep, piglets and even a dancing bear, and all with a natural
spontaneity and realism, together with Carol Stephenson's stunning
costumes and Enid Strutt's ingenious set, with some fabulous
The performance was conducted
by ENO's Stephen Harris, who never allowed the singers to become
over indulgent, which would have gone against the Frenchness
of the score. Dulcinea's four suitors, John Bailey, Peter Daniel,
Caroline Patterson and Yvette Cummings made a splendid team,
as well as characterful individuals. Dulcinea herself was sung
by Deborah Davison, with a warm and full voice, even if a little
stern at times. Don Quiuote and Sancho Panza's first entrance
was quite unforgettable as they looked perfectly in character
on Enid Strutt's beautifully constructed mechanical horse and
Paul Hedges as Quixote aroused both our respect and sympathy
by the gentle dignity with which he played and sang the role.
Michael Fitchew as Sancho, proved an excellent counterfoil to
his master's lofty concepts with his rustic and rather less elevated
priorities. Special mention must be made of the young Spanish
dancer, Marta Casado Martinet who danced and led so many beautiful
and atmospheric moments throughout the evening, at one point
accompanied by a live guitar on stage, spectacularly played by
Review by ROY
ATTERBURY Kentish Times December 7th 2000
In terms of
costumes, sets, vitality and performers, Kentish Opera once again
achieved very high standards when it brought its production of
Don Quixote to the Stag Theatre last week.
Its presentation showed
how it stands as one of the most creative provincial companies
of its type in the country. Indeed, many of its productions reach
the standards that more illustrious companies might applaud.
However, the performance
I attended had some of the gloss removed by two factors that
prevented a very good production becoming one of great quality.
Firstly, some of the scenes had moments where the fluidity of
the action was marred by slightly uncomfortable moments of 'inactivity.'
For example, the first entrance of Don Quixote with his servant
Sancho Panza seemed to take an interminable period of time after
the townspeople of La Mancha had first heralded the couple's
Secondly, the sets
were dismantled and built in full view of the audience during
the intervals between the five Acts. While there may have been
practical reasons for this, the theatrical magic that had been
so carefully contrived was sadly diluted. Nevertheless, this
was a production that glittered with some fine performances,
an outstanding contribution by the chorus, and an orchestra that excelled under
its conductor Stephen Harris. Simon Neal's portrayal of Don Quixote
superbly captured the sad, frail and poignant qualities of one
of literature's most famous characters. His rich bass baritone
was a delight and I have never seen 'the knight with a woeful
countenance' portrayed with such sensitivity.
As Sancho Panza, Michael
Fitchew, too, created a perfect foil to a deranged master in
a performance that reflected perplexity and compassion with a
combination of fine acting and a baritone voice that brought
great depth to the character. Soprano Deborah Davison also excelled
as Quixote's romantic fixation Dulcinella, while Marta Casado
Martinez delighted the audience with her exceptional display
of flamenco dancing. Full of colour, drama and emotion, this
was a production that perfectly captured the essence of Cervantes'