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This bride deserved better weather

Author: 

Frank Ruhrmund

Publication: 

NOT ONLY a case of singing in the rain but also of struggling against a strong wind and swirling sea fog, Surrey Opera is to be praised for facing up so splendidly to Monday's awful weather which greeted its opening performance of Czech composer Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride.

Directed by James Hurley with musical direction by Jonathan Butcher and performed on an intriguing timbered set designed by Madeleine Millar, one of which the late Trader Gray would have been proud, the opera tells of the lives and loves of three people in a 19th century Bohemian village — Mařenka, Jeník and Vašek — and the problems that ensue when the girl in this eternal triangle becomes the subject of a financial deal.

For good measure it also involves a lot of drinking, a village population which is more often drunk than sober, plus a visiting circus which has everything from a bearded lady to a dancing bear, not to mention enough melodic charm to keep even the most saturated of its audience happy. Then, too, there is the singing and acting all of which is of a high standard.

The leads are shared and on its opening night I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Joanna Weeks as Mařenka, the eponymous heroine, and Greg Tassell as her lover Jeník, both of whom were on top form and gave winning performances.

They were handsomely supported by Tim Baldwin as the scheming marriage broker Kecal, Daniel Roddick and Rhonda Browne as Mařenka's parents, Edwin Hawkes (Mícha), Angela Fuller (Háta), Rebecca Moon (Esmeralda) and Rhys Bowden who, as the bewildered, bothered and bewitched prospective bridegroom Vašek, stole every scene he was in.

Praise, too, for Richard Jeffery who, as well as looking every inch a Ringmaster, found time to acknowledge those who, like the cast, had braved the weather and stayed to see them perform.

A production which deserves better weather and a big bravo, it is dedicated to the memory of Anthea Hall, Surrey Opera's former Administrator, who would surely have been proud.