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by on 25 March 2019

A New Look


by Pytor Tchaikovsky

Rose Opera at the Normansfield Theatre, Teddington until 24th March

Review by Didie Bucknall

The scene is set in the paradise garden of an overprotective king who is desperately trying to shield his daughter from discovering that she is blind. She is cosseted by many maidens who tend to her everyday needs. She is oblivious to the fact that she cannot see and is content with much; the sound of the wind in the trees, the smell of flowers, the warming of the sun, but feels a certain melancholy as though something is missing from her life.


Iolanta, Tchaikovsky’s short lyric opera in one act was performed in the original Russian by the fledgling Rose Opera in the stunning Normansfield theatre, still unspoilt with its beautiful arts and crafts decoration and stage settings. Surtitles were provided on a screen adjacent to the stage.

Ukrainian born Tamara Ravenhill took the lead part of Iolanta is a beautiful lirico spinto soprano and we look forward to hearing her in future Rose Opera productions. She held the audience as she felt her way around the garden, her character being blind from birth. It may have been a small stage to manoeuvre a big cast of her supporting maidens, however in contrast we might have hoped for a bit more movement from the principal singers as the production was occasionally somewhat static.


Intruders arrive at the garden; Ian Helm as Iolanta’s intended suitor Robert, in fine voice, bewails the fact that though he had been betrothed to Iolanta from childhood. He dreads the thought of marrying her as he had been smitten by love elsewhere. Luckily for him it was love at first sight for his friend Vaudémort, played by Andy Evans, and it was he who revealed to Iolanta the fact that she was blind, thereby incurring the king’s wrath.

Crispin Lewis as King René took a little time to get into his stride but his rich bass baritone voice gave gravitas to the part. He brings with him a mysterious oriental healer, Aleksi Koponen, another fine baritone, who can only heal Iolanta if she really wishes to be healed and for that she has to be made aware of the fact that she is blind. It is a hard choice for her to make as hitherto her world has been one of sounds and smell and touch and she cannot comprehend what it is to be able to see, but she makes her decision and, as she gains her sight, we the audience like Iolanta are almost blinded by the suddenness of the colourful set and the bright light. She shields her eyes and we feel her shock as the stage appears to erupt in a blaze of colour, the ladies of the court now appearing in glowing blue robes instead of the previous drab.


The twenty nine strong orchestra conducted by Peter Ford did not overpower the singers as is so often the case. The music was beautiful and descriptive of mood.

It was an ambitious opening presentation by this new opera company and they must be congratulated on their fine achievement. We wish them every success in the future.

Didie Bucknall
March 2019

Photography by Tom Medwell

From → Opera, Reviews

  1. Great post 😁

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