Aida February 2016
As we hear time and again, Aida is in many ways an intimate opera,
but how often is it staged with a
chorus of 30 and an orchestra of 14? Admittedly there were moments in
the Triumphal Scene of Park Opera’s staging where one missed a wall of
sound, but it was a pleasure to hear the counterpoint of the soloists’
lines with such clarity, and elsewhere – for instance in the first
part of the Judgement Scene – the woodwind achieved a particular
poignancy. Francis Griffin, who made the orchestral reduction, was
also the conductor; he shaped and balanced the score persuasively and
the words of Graham Billing’s new translation came over with
In the 330-seat Wilde Theatre, Charlotte-Ann Shipley, who spent two years
at the Rome Opera Studio, had the full measure of Aida. She captured
the character’s gentle dignity and floated her lines memorably in the
Nile Scene duet with Radames. If Davide Sorrentino (a Sicilian who
grew up in Britain) could not match her suppleness of phrasing, his
top notes bloomed without fail – and the final B flat of ‘Celeste
Aida’ was even accorded a diminuendo. Anna Loveday as Amneris worked
the role fully into her voice and acted with growing fervour as the
tragedy progressed. Gregor Kowalski, perhaps the most naturally
Verdian of the principals, made an imposing Amonasro, and Jeremy
Andrews and Paul Waite sang with dark strength as Ramfis and the King.
If the score was stripped down, the director Sallie Ward
eschewed a studio-style staging and went ambitiously for the full
Egyptian: she had clearly marshalled her forces – including a
delightful corps de ballet –
with considerable skill amid the riot of blue, purple, red, gold, ostrich feathers,
ankhs, eyeliner and luxuriant wigs.
Opera, May 2016 Yehuda Shapiro
Don Giovanni June 2013
As an opera novice I did not know what to expect when I entered the
Wilde Theatre last night, but the packed theatre was a good indicator
I was in for a treat. With an excellent reputation for putting on
productions to a professional standard going back more than 30 years,
Park Opera had a lot to live up to and they did not disappoint.
Thankfully Mozart's Don Giovanni was performed in English so the story
was easy to follow - this is something Park Opera does in every
performance to make opera accessible. The standard of singing and acting
from the lead characters through a very long three-hour performance at
times blew me away. Although the production took the audience through
different emotions, Park Opera had clearly added subtle touches to make
it funnier, and this was welcome.
As well as flawless lead singers the glue of this production was the warm
and expressive chorus of 20 performers who played wedding guests,
servants and musicians throughout. When everyone was on stage and singing
together, I found this particularly powerful and moving, and it was also
clear everyone in this performance was enjoying themselves. To top
everything off, the flawless orchestra with its animated musical director
(and I could only see his back) wended its way through Mozart's lengthy
score seemingly effortlessly and it was easy at times to get lost in the
Finally, I thought the costumes were stunning and professional, and now
may consider myself an opera convert thanks to Park Opera's passion and
Becky Barnes reporting for the Reading Post - www.getreading.co.uk
Madam Butterfly February 2013
Of all the performing arts opera probably has the biggest
stigma. Grey-haired audience members, upper-classes and lyrics in
a foreign language - it's no wonder most people think opera 'isn't
for them.' But last night Park Opera's production of Madam Butterfly
elegantly destroyed the stereotype and proved that opera really
can be accessible for all.
One of the most famous operas, Madam Butterfly tells the tragic
tale of Cio-Cio San, otherwise known as Butterfly, and her hopeless
love for American navy Lieutenant B F Pinkerton. It is a plot which
could have come straight out of a modern romantic film and Park
Opera did a commendable job at telling, or rather singing, the tragic
The opera has been translated from its Italian original into English
which for the most part meant the story was easy to follow. But
at times the power of hitting the high notes sacrificed the clarity
of the lyrics, meaning elements of the story were lost.
The joy in opera comes from the music rather than the lyrics, and
every note was spot on. Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Li-Li
was sensational as Butterfly, floating from meek, obedient girl,
to weeping, devastated wife. Robert Lomax as Pinkerton was equally
impressive, his voice both powerful and romantic, and mention has
to go to Graham McGregor-Smith, who played a wonderful scene as
US Consul Sharpless, torn between reading a letter to Butterfly,
or saving her from its painful words. The supporting cast made wonderful
Geishas, shuffling in groups and giggling girlishly, and then becoming
a shrieking tragic chorus.
With a stage bathed in soft lighting, littered with petals and framed
by Japanese-style sliding doors, Park Opera has created it's own
charming little Japanese oasis in the Wilde Theatre, emphasised
by a stunning wardrobe of colourful silk kimonos.
Down in the shadows of the pit, without a kimono in sight, the orchestra
played Puccini's notes with the delicacy and ferocity they demand,
with musical director Lindsay Bramley leading the helm. Her passionate
conducting … was equally measured by those on stage, and it
is that drama and enthusiasm which made the production such a captivating
tale, regardless of your opera experience.
Caroline Cook, Reading Post
Albert Herring June 2008
Park Opera's Sallie Ward has done it again! Her production
of Benjamin Britten's light-hearted opera Albert Herring
was full of fun and vitality.
Albert himself was a masterpiece of acting and singing by Adam Tunicliffe
- a supressed and shy teenager shuffling about in his mother's shop.
His appalled reaction to the limelight in which he found himself
as "King of the May" aroused our sympathy and contrasted
so well with his defiant liberation after drinking a tumbler full
of spirits. We rejoiced to see him shocking the staid worthies of
the town and telling off his domineering mother.
The Committee members were perfect sketches - the pious vicar, the
pompous mayor, the schoolmistress who is faintly out of touch, the
heavy policeman and above all, the autocratic Lady Billows, played
by Diana Vivian. They contrasted well with the naughty, lively children
and with the saucy lad from the butcher's and the happy go-lucky
girl from the bakery.
As always with Park Opera, the singing was of the highest standard
- crisp and clear. It was so well integrated with the action and
the choreography that it was as natural as ordinary speech.
The wholehearted involvement of everyone on stage and in the orchestra
made this production of Britten's comedy a delight.
Turandot February 2007
" ..it was sensational. The musicality, the orchestral playing,
the soloists, the spatial solutions to the huge forces, the sumptuousness
of the set and costumes, all combined to make this an unforgettable
experience. This was undoubtedly one of he greatest achievements
in the history of the Wilde Theatre."
"Park Opera decided to stage Puccini's last
and most musically challenging opera as part of their 25th birthday
celebrations.... They had no illusions about the depth of the undertaking.
Happily, the gamble pays off - with rich rewards. Anne-Marie Czajkowski
is a chilling, imperious Turandot....Andy Hart is the stubborn Calaf....(his)
powerful Nessun Dorma drives home the haunting beauty of the famous
aria. Maria Gayle-Rodgers is sweetly heatrbreaking as loyal Liù....Jeremy
Andrews is noble, majestic in suffering and vaguely Gandalf-like
as Timur. Gareth Dayus-Jone, Jonathan Bungard and Gary Maslen show
wonderful comic timing and bring much-needed light relief as Ping,
Pong and Pang. Paul Hughes is a silent and terrifying executioner....
thoroughly deserving the boos and hisses that greeted his curtain
call. The chorus had fine strong voices, lively characterisation
and enthusiasm. The children were charming. The simple set effectively
invoked the royal courts of ancient China, complemented by mainly
red and green lighting. All on stage - and in the orchestra - gave
of themselves body, heart and soul and the result was an impressive
perfomance that flew by...Park Opera have triumphed with Turandot
and it is a fitting accomplishment with which to mark their anniversary
"Turandot includes the most popular aria in
the world - Nessun Dorma...Calaf (Andy Hart) peformed this admirably
on an empty stage, addng to its impact. Princess Turandot (Anne-Marie
Czajkowski) gave a powerful peformance, but the highlight was the
touching Liù (Marie Gayle-Rodgers). The full house made a
successful first night, well supported by the chorus and orchestra
- worthy of any West End theatre. A thoroughly enjoyable evening."
Cosi fan tutte June 2006
"Park Opera performed Mozart's Cosi fan tutte with
considerable flair. The orchestra was excellently balanced and the
principals put in very good performances. Tara Overend (Fiordiligi)'s
voice was particularly delightful and Emma Mabin (Dorabella)'s duets
with her were a highpoint of the night."
"Park Opera's production of Cosi fan tutte was
its contribution to the musical celebtrations of the 250th anniversary
of Mozart's birth. The performance was a perfect balance of music
and drama. The music was superb ... which interpreted closely
the various moods the composer expressed. Tara Overend's lament
in Act II was sad and moving. Emma Tring's songs were pert and
cheeky - and beautifully sung. Emma Mabin capitulated beautifully
into Guiglielmo's arms. Gareth Dayus- Jones and Jonathan Bungard
(Guiglielmo and Ferrando) continued to sing serenly from any position.
Jeremy Andrews was a perfect Don Alfonso - a cynical man-of-the-world
- with a gorgeous voice. The backbone of Park Opera is the chorus.
Its performance was impressive with a lovely tone. The set was
simple .. a terrace upstage with a wide backdrop which resembled
the Bay of Naples. The cast was so well choeographed that they
seemed to be part of the music, naturally moving about the stage
and keeping the plot flowing. The whole performance was a well-
balanced blend of all the ingredients. Mozart would have liked
La Clemenza di Tito June 2005
"Under the baton of Brian Henry, Park Opera's strong principal
line up, together with a very effective chorus, ensured that Sallie
Ward's production of Mozart's last opera, performed on a set that
would not have disgraced a leading opera house, was another success
for this talented company. No stranger to the operatic world,
Andrew Yates (Tito) made dramatic use of his strong tenor voice
and excellent stage presence .... and Diana Vivian sailed effortlessly
through her performance of Vitellia ... Emma Mabin stole the show
with her delightful and convincing characterisation as deluded,
would-be assassin Sesto, while Lindsay Bramley brought a robust
interpretation to the role of Annio, the tender, passionate Act
I duet with Tara Overend (Servilia) proving to be one of the musical
highlights of the opera. Jeremy Andrews used his resonant bass
voice to good effect as Publio."
La Traviata February 2004
"Park Opera's lavish production ..... featured wonderful
singing, beautiful costumes and simple but effective sets. I particularly
liked the platform behind the main action which was used for both
dancing and carnival, highlighting how Violetta was cut off from
her previous friends. Dominique Fegan, Violetta, .... was brilliant,
with a lovely singing voice, and Neil Jordan as Alfredo was a
strong romantic lead. .... We also enjoyed the gypsy dancers;
... who brought a light-hearted touch to the opera: congratulations
Lucy Ward who both danced and choreographed. ... We are incredibly
lucky here in Bracknell to be able to watch such talented people."
Tosca June 2003
"Park Opera's production of Puccini's Tosca was good enough
to be professional. ... Dominique Fegan, was excellent, with a
powerful singing voice and a lovely stage presence. I felt I was
lucky to hear this Australian singer. In her scenes with Scarpia,
David Stout, you could sense her feeling of revulsion. ... As
someone who, unlike most of the rest of the audience, had not
seen Park Opera before, I am looking forward to their production
of La Traviata."
The Queen of Spades February 2003
Sallie Ward, the producer, and Brian Henry, the musical
director of Park Opera, have done it again! The choreography in
this performance was simply astonishing, perhaps most impressively
in the lovely masque with its classic shepherds and shepherdesses.
As always, the costumes were good, and thoughtfully matched the
mood of the drama, from the dazzling ball gowns and uniforms to
the dishevelled clothes of Herman when he realised he had been
deceived. .... As ever with Park Opera, the commitment and enthusiasm
of its members showed in the choral singing, which was outstanding
bright, hearty and convincing. The mens choruses
in the last scene were very fine indeed. .... Park Operas
next? Not to be missed.
The Marriage of Figaro June 2002
Park Opera celebrated their 21st season in fine style with
a radiant, roller-coaster production of Mozarts comic masterpiece.
The entire cast performed with the usual fine style that makes
Park Opera a reliable yet always fresh treat .... throwing heart
and soul into an impressive production that was a treat for the
eyes and ears.
A Masked Ball February 2002
All the principals were good. Its wonderful to go
to a production when the leading female character (who is supposed
to be a great beauty) can sing and act and looks like the kind
of woman who would have men fighting over her. The most memorable
scene was definitely the masked ball itself; beautifully choreographed,
helpfully colour-coded (red for assassins, blue for the good guys,
and white and black for everyone else), with the chorus dancing
merrily in the background as the tragedy of the main characters
is played out at the front of the stage. I cant wait for
the next one.
Don Giovanni June 2001
Park Opera producer Susan Moore and conductor Brian Henry, saw
to it that there was clear characterisation in this enjoyable
performance. Attention to detail in costumes, movement and acting,
as well as in singing, was evident, right down to the little peasant
boy. The music was lovely ... very good soloists, shining ensembles
and as usual, good singing from the enthusiastic chorus.
Eugene Onégin June 2000
Eugene Onégin in the manner of grand opera requires
skilful presentation. On this occasion the producer, Margery Jackson,
and the choreographer, Dawn Thompson, were particularly inspired.
The big scenes were beautifully arranged. The St Petersburg ball
was lively and wittily managed. The intimate scenes were equally
successful. But, really, the production was such an enjoyable
success because of the commitment and enthusiasm of everyone involved
... onstage and behind the scenes.
This was a notable interpretation. The soloists and chorus
ensured the exceedingly high standards we have come to expect
from this company were maintained, and the producer Margery Jackson
and musical director Graeme Lodge can be well pleased with the
Aida February 2000
This performance was a spectacle in every respect. Keith
Wards chunky Egyptian-inspired sets were reminiscent of
the grandeur of Karnak. The costumes were superb. David Lacey
conducted the beautiful music with great panache .... and the
whole triumphal scene was very exciting. The Parks chorus
was firm and precise. Their singing in the Temple in Act I was
a wonderful evocation of the mystery of the strange Egyptian rites
which Verdi wanted to convey. As always, Sallie Wards arrangement
of the large chorus, and their easy, natural acting, was beautifully
Macbeth February 1998
Park Opera has always specialised in tremendous soloists
and a tremendous set, but now with each production the quality
of the chorus and the movement on the stage gets better and better.
Perhaps the best I can say was that I returned and bought a ticket
for the Saturday night! This enabled me to enjoy the magnificent
Carmen June 1997
What a colourfully vibrant production ..... In this remarkable
visual spectacle, directed with dashing panache, ..... the entire
company impressed. ..... The ensemble singing was a highlight
of the evening. ..... The twenty-two young children added a fresh
charm to the action and sang with joyous enthusiasm.
Il Trovatore February 1997
The production of this very demanding opera was outstanding.
Congratulations to all those involved on a magnificent effort.
The Magic Flute June 1996
Beautiful costumes and imaginative lighting, combined with
fine acting and singing....Mozarts masterpiece performed
as it should be bright, breezy and full of colour.
La Bohème February 1996
Warm and natural production...rich tones of the fine,
attentive chorus. The care and attention paid by the chorus to
every gesture, every tableau, making the whole a joy to look at,
was typical of the whole performance.
Rigoletto February 1993
"The colourful sets and costumes set the seal on an operatic
production of which to be proud."
Albert Herring May 1984
A superb group of singers under the baton of Brian Henry provided
an evening of pure delight. Each character portrayed with meticulous
attention to detail.
Il Tabarro and Gianni Schicchi May 1983
The singers, all local people, ..... reminded us yet again what
a marvellous depth of musical talent there is a available in this
area. The singing was all good and much of it was of quite outstanding
quality. ..... in both operas, serious and comic alike, the most
warming feature was the splendour of the voices. This was an evening
of genuine operatic singing.