The Spanish Inquisition comes to the English countryside

The Spanish Inquisition comes to the English countryside


norman lebrecht

July 01, 2019

I am not sure why the national newspapers have failed to review the revival of Verdi’s Don Carlo at Grange Park Opera.

There have been significant cast changes since Wasfi Kani first presented Jo Davies’ production in 2016 and the show is now housed in a purpose-built 700-seater, where the terror of the Inquisition feels at times both personal and overpowering.

Of the two survivors of the original cast, Clive Bailey adds a Trump hairstyle to Philipp II, alternating menance with caprice in a manner that feels all too familiar. The voice, too, is richly convincing.

Ruxandra Dunose sings a troubled Eboli, teetering on the edge of her emotions.

Marina Costa-Jackson is a standout Elisabetta, Brett Polegato is superb as Rodrigo. Leonardo Capalbo tries slightly too hard to be liked in the title role and I do not ever want to see Branislav Jatic’s Grand Inquisitor again: he scared the pants off me. The orchestra came from English National Opera. It seemed to play better away from home. Gianluca Marciano kept the tempi really taut.

I like the Grange Park experience. It has none of Glyndebourne’s City yahoos with their double-magnums and noisy ignorance, and few of Covent Garden’s tetchy oldies. The atmosphere, bucolic on arrival, deepens with psychological intentisty as the opera unfolds.

Why the national media don’t pay more attention is a mystery, but then they let us down in so many other ways.

Grange Park is a word-of-mouth treasure and its Don Carlo a gem. Don’t all rush there at once.






  • Esther Cavett says:

    === It has none of Glyndebourne’s City yahoos with their double-magnums and noisy ignorance

    Haha, well said. The J.P. Morgan set wining & dining their clients. Could just as well be Ascot they’re at

  • FS60103 says:

    Perhaps it’s not been covered because with something like 50 country house productions opening in the space of three months, priority has to be given to new productions rather than revivals.

    I’m glad you had a good experience – but while the quality of the performances and productions is indeed very fine, and the setting is beautiful, I’ve found that of all the country house outfits, it’s the one where the audience seems most disengaged and most focused on the picnic and fancy dress aspect. The sort of place where the organisers would rather have a good giggle about their new designer loos than talk about opera; absolutely drowning in cosy Home Counties self-congratulation. It’s no great achievement to run up an opera house in the back garden when your pals are all celebrities, aristocrats and hedge-fund squillionaires.

  • Will Duffay says:

    Tickets start at £85. I don’t know why the national newspapers bother to review Glyndebourne or Garsington. A complete irrelevance to 99% of Classical music lovers.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      A ticket at £85 is pretty cheap compared to tickets for pop music festivals, such as Glastonbury (where the ticket costs £248).

      Personally, I prefer going to see opera and classical music partly because it is something that is more affordable, and isn’t full of people who went to public school.

  • mark woolgar says:

    I am 78, first went to ROH in 1951, Glyndebourne in 1967 and Gr Pk once or twice in Hampshire and, as a Guildford resident, happily to West Horsley every year so far. I am not at all wealthy and am inclined to feel that audiences at all 3 venues can vary from performance to performance , just as they can in the West End or the local Odeon. As for the remarks about G Pk Opera’s organisers, I think the comments grossly unfair – I just enjoy the eccentricity. I am glad G Pk is playing up its Pimlico Opera and schools’ work side, just as Glyndebourne can mention its outreach work and its self generated electricity. Neither organisation is compelled to do any of that in order to fill in an Arts Council tick box. Furthermore, The Theatre in the Woods is part of wider developments by the Mary Roxburghe Trust and in due course will form a (large) part of an over all organisation. Planning permission and mission statements both referred to community use and, as a resident, I am sure that Guildford will insure, bless and support that. Long live all 3 organisations, with a fine record and happy future plans – well, 2 of them anyway !!??

  • Robert Groen says:

    I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition….

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I wasn’t expecting this. But then, NOBODY expects …..

  • Maestrolive says:

    prefectly put. I saw the production on Sunday night – my first visit to the ‘new’ Grange and I found the venue perfectly understated and the quality of production outstanding

  • Mike Schachter says:

    May I suggest a distinctly non-country house approach? In the last few weeks I have been to see La Juive in Antwerp and I Puritani in Liege. These are not operas frequently seen in the UK. The performances were excellent, the Bellini had Lawrence Brownlee, perhaps the best male belcanto singer at the moment. Prices were reasonable, the locals friendly (though don’t expect people to speak English in Liege), the restaurants good. I will probably go to Ghent in the autumn to see Don Carlos, interestingly the Flemish opera doing the French version. And a nice 2 hours on Eurostar!