Saturday, 13 August 2022


You might think Garsington Opera, located each summer in a big covered auditorium near the famous cricket pitch in Wormsley

You might think Garsington Opera, located each summer in a big covered auditorium near the famous cricket pitch in Wormsley Park (Sir Paul Getty got his love of cricket from Mick Jagger) is strictly for posh punters.

But wait a minute. Garsington, better known for dazzling Vivaldi, Rossini or Mozart - in fact anyone could enjoy those - has just produced its first Community Opera. It was a knock-out hit.

Road Rage has a sparkling storyline by Sir Richard Stilgoe, and singable music by an equally sparky composer, Orlando Gough.

Get together hundreds of performers, from local groups and schools, then what do you do for an opera?

Stilgoe’s wonderful saga features the famous red kites that were recently a feature of Wormsley (I saw one just three miles away, so they haven’t all gone).

Three inquisitive kites, brilliantly performed (Oliver Winter, Sophie Haxworth and the stupendous 12-year-old Juliette Dudley) hover above the action like gods surveying the action (all very opera-like).

Then enter Roman surveyors measuring up the land, gruff centurions, starving slaves, and the action gains a political and historical flavour.

But it’s a rural tale - squirrels, rabbits, dormice, a tasty meal for a kite, are superbly marshalled by director Karen Gillingham, whose eagle (or kite-like) eye seemed to miss no detail.

A feisty girl (Clare Presland) and an activist (Peter Willcock) stir up the populace with a green agenda.

Their song, There’s A Green And Pleasant Land I Love, casts a magical spell.

Roads and development are the real pest.

A Minister (tenor Daniel Norman, a spectacularly funny performer), who plots to build a motorway across a Chiltern village green, and gets his come-uppance, is as accident-prone as Peter Sellers.

But it’s the community performers, in vibrant costumes, who made this show a triumph.

Star turns included the minister’s advisors, besuited with clipboards, whose rhythmic singing was easily the best.

Except that the tiny newts, whose discovery under a huge stone sent the building project pear-shaped, stole the show.

If you think that all sounds posh, you’d need your head examined.

So next time Garsington do a show, get down to Wormsley and join the cast.

And book early. There won’t be a ticket to be had.

Road Rage,

Garsington Opera,

Saturday, July 20

Roderic Dunnett

Men Of The World

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Tuesday, July 23

Lesley Potter

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