unproblematic from the start is the acoustic. There are plenty of hard surfaces for the sound to bounce off.
‘They do need to be careful not to lose its essential integrity,’ says O’Connor, ‘its USP. One of the reasons it’s such a beautiful construction is that it’s got a light touch. It was designed as a temporary building—if it had been intended as a permanent building it would have had a different feel, the materials would have been different. What’s so lovely is its transparency, the way you can see through the panels to trees on one side and the formal garden—that’s grown and flourished wonderfully over the past few years—on the other. An original design feature was the back doors that could open up and I’m a huge advocate for keeping that, for being able to open up the back wall to a view beyond. Once you start putting in walls, sealing up the unit, you might as well box the whole thing in. The fact that it’s an open-sided pavilion, in a landscape, that happens to have opera going on inside it, is what makes it so special.’
■ Martin Duncan’s outdoor production of Will Todd’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ at Opera Holland Park in 2013, with Fflur Wyn as Alice and James Cleverton as the White Rabbit
Duncan agrees. ‘It’s almost more like a wide concert platform than a stage. There are no wings and no flies, so the way you put a show on there is absolutely unique to that space. It’s essentially informed by the nature and the atmosphere of the building, and the way it connects to the landscape. I also love the way the front-of-house areas work—the bar that looks out onto the lake and the top floor that feels rather like being on the upper deck of a ship.’ ‘And,’ adds O’Connor, ‘that’s the bit where anyone can grab a table space and have their picnic. The posh dining experience in tents is down below, by the cricket pitch. They don’t have anything like such a good view!’ Garsington Opera runs from June 14 to July 20. www.garsingtonopera.org Opera Holland Park runs from June 4 to August 3. www.operahollandpark.com
Obituaries Dominick Argento American composer, on February 20, in Minneapolis, aged 91. Born in York, Pennsylvania, on 27 October 1927, Argento studied at Peabody Conservatory and the Eastman School of Music.
In 1958 he arrived at the University of Minnesota, where he taught for nearly four decades. He lived in Minneapolis with his wife, the soprano Carolyn Bailey, who died in 2006.
Argento’s 14 musically and dramatically diverse operas invariably demonstrated his gift for communicating the absolute essence of a text through a skilfully crafted vocal line. He truly relished composing for singers, commenting once to me that ‘my entire
Opera, May 2019