Alfonso und Estrella (2019)
We come to this bucolic place not just to listen to, but to savour the music in a moment which is outside time. And if the work is a rarity like this Alfonso und Estrella, the magical setting adds to the pleasure of the discovery … … on the vocal level, the interpretation was more than convincing.
Bernadette Grimmett and Guido Martin-Brandis opt for simplicity in a stark yet colourful staging. There is no need here to invent pointless scenery changes or to set an artificial rhythm to a work whose rich musical fabric has no need of it. Here, simplicity is synonymous with efficacy and we experience an invigorating and life-affirming show, when everything these days seems to evoke complex and tortured sophistication.
Alex Ingram conducts with dynamism this music which is harsh to the point of being tragic, but has a poignant tenderness reminiscent of of Weber and Beethoven.
This interlude in Anjou is particularly refreshing …(Brigitte Maroillat, Forum Opera).
Alfonso und Estrella (2019)
Another very successful show.
Above all, woven with this coloring (which resonates particularly well with Baugé, in this magnificent and poetic Anjou), one hears a tenderness and a melancholy that invade everything. Both in the superb chorus tones particularly tasty and fluid in women, than in the air and perhaps even more in the duets between Alfonso and Estrella. But the painful interiorization of the two kings, Froila and Mauregato, also finds expressive lines welcome. It is perhaps here that one finds best the Schubertian characteristics of the composer of lieder (Alain Duault, Opera Online).
Alfonso und Estrella (2019)
Initially, Schubert seems less concerned with theatrical momentum than with expansive, lyrical vocal lines supported by full-bodied instrumentation. Things come decisively alive after the interval with a substantial scene of anxiety followed by joy as Estrella’s father (Jake Muffett, singing with outstanding authority and definition) and his court await the princess who is missing after a hunting trip. Also striking is a strenuously ferocious aria for the lustful villain Adolfo (the punchy, charcoal-toned Roger Krebs).
As the plot thickens, Alexander Aldren (Alfonso) and Stephanie Edwards (Estrella) also rise to their expressive challenges….The fifth principal is the deposed (and incognito) King Froila, sung with warm nobility by Denver Martin Smith. The chorus – primarily young professionals – switch adeptly between incarnations as villagers, courtiers and soldiers.
Schubert’s distinctive genius is perhaps most evident in the orchestra: the graceful wind writing, the string figurations and oscillations between major and minor. Conductor Alexander Ingram ensures the score – conceived on a surprisingly epic scale – unfolds eloquently and with pace.
Directing, Bernadette Grimmett takes the storybook setting at face value, while creating lively stage pictures and rounding out the characters with insight and compassion (Yehuda Shapiro, The Stage).
Il trovatore (2019)
Suffice it to say that it is daring to put on Il Trovatore at Opéra de Baugé … Yet the bet almost comes off completely, thanks to the tenacity of Bernadette and John Grimmett in bringing to their Glyndebourne in Anjou some voices which may very soon be heard on larger stages … the orchestra, with superb woodwinds and remarkable ensemble playing…(Alain Duault, Opera Online)
The premiere of this Rigoletto was a triumph, well earned via the usual ingredients that make the charm and originality of this opera festival in Baugé. First of all, when so many opera lovers often deplore the excessively complicated stagings, we know that we can see in Baugé shows that really tell the story. It’s relaxing and it’s indispensable. The indefatigable Bernadette Grimmett, at the same time artistic director, director and incidentally seamstress of final recourse if necessary, offers a Rigoletto quite clear, readable, classic, but not simplistic, as is evidenced by the treatment of certain characters, of Giovanna, the duenna of Gilda, whose money and corruptibility is understood in one scene, and of Maddalena, the sister of the killer Sparafucile, whose astonishing presence on stage allows Bernadette Grimmett to give her character a dimension seldom highlighted, that of a young woman who wants to be able to love the Duke with the same intensity as Gilda, whom she unwittingly eliminates…
It must be said that these secondary roles are performed by two remarkable singers, the Estonian Monika-Evelin Liiv as Giovanna, and especially the breathtaking Aigul Akhmetshina, a mezzo with a deep, ambry, harmonic-rich timbre who, at 22, and with the temperament she reveals, will certainly figure in the international lyrical landscape in the near future.
Here we are touching on one of the strengths of Opéra de Baugé, this ability to recruit young voices already embarked on a career and able to master the leading roles which they will perform later on. For instance the baritone Grant Doyle; he has exactly the voice for Rigoletto, full-bodied and well projected, clear attacks, richness and flexibility of phrasing (superb “Pari siamo” in the first act), expressive intensity to the tension that never falls (“Cortiggiani” in the second act), perfect support that allows him to hold the final scene with overwhelming force. Gilda too, the New Zealand soprano Carleen Ebbs, already noticed at Baugé last year in Lucia di Lammermoor, confirms her talent in a beautiful interpretation which is never too ethereal, thanks to a very lyrical voice, perfectly managed in the development of a “Caro nome” delicately relaxed but also able to project in the ensembles, the duo of act 2, “Si vendetta”, the famous quartet of act 3. And these two principal artists know how to act with a naturalness that makes the scenes very believable and strong ….. an enjoyable sight to see and hear, supported by the British conductor Philip Hesketh, very attentive to the cohesion of his orchestra, knowing how to highlight the woodwind in beautiful colours (the cor anglais!), the brass, the strings, a little light in number but very committed, and the excellent timpanist! If you are in Anjou, hurry there: the pleasure of a work so well performed, the chance to discover some promising young talents, and the pleasant conviviality of the setting are worth the detour! (Alain Duault, Opera Online)
La Cenerentola (2017)
“And it is the slapstick moral portraits that bear the narrative, faced with the naivety of the main characters: the ugly sisters really enjoy themselves: the sparkling voice and malicious acting of Karlene Moreno Hayworth (Clorinda) and the softer and distanced character of Latana Phoung (Tisbe) are combined with happiness and a beautiful cohesion. Don Magnifico, the paunchy patriarch, awkward and drunken, is sung impeccably by Stephen Kennedy, who has no troouble mastering the language and spirit of Rossini. Nicholas Merryweather’s Alidoro shines with the depth of his timbre, and Woochul Eun’s Dandini by the warmth and expressiveness of his voice. The Cenerentola of the young Aigul Akhmetshina is fresh and generous, and one will follow with interest the career of this promising Russian mezzo: her trills are still a little dense, but her voice is clear and sweet. “ (Suzanne Lay, Bachtrack)
Lucia di Lammermoor (2017)
“But the most remarkable success of this Lucia lies on the vocal level. Indeed, independently of the individual performances, the whole of the combined plateau forms a homogeneous cast that allows ensembles of real strength: the famous sextet of the second act – so complex to implement and balance – constitutes from this point of view view one of the highlights of the show. Yet we will greet some of the voices carefully chosen by the Grimmetts, those of young artists whose names we must remember because we could well hear them again very soon. “ (Alain Duault, Opera Online)
Le nozze di Figaro (2014)
« Grâce à de petits festivals comme Baugé, de jeunes chanteurs, qui souvent commencent dans le chœur, peuvent se mesurer aux grands rôles dans un environnement relativement détendu. Ben Johnson, Sophie Bevan et Ji-Min Park ont fait leurs débuts au festival. Plusieurs membres de cette distribution ont le potentiel de faire des carrières brillantes et un ou deux l’ont déjà fait. » (Amanda Holloway, Opera).
L’elisir d’amore (2013)
« …un spectacle qui m’a donné des émotions musicales comme je n’en avais pas eues depuis longtemps. Je me demande d’ailleurs pourquoi des compagnies professionnelles bien dotées financièrement n’atteignent pas un tel niveau. » (Roger Smith, Bachtrack)