Review of “Louise” at the Buxton Festival

Charpentier’s sprawling operatic picture of Paris calls out for staging for maximum impact but the Buxton Festival does it proud in this concert performance of a rarely encountered masterpiece.

It is not difficult to appreciate why opera companies run shy of it because of the amount of rehearsal time it would involve for the huge cast needed for act two.

A multiplicity of various characters, apart from Louise, Julien and Noctambulist, they are all taken here by the 16-member Festival Chorus.

So numerous are the parts, individual members sing up to four of them, the quality of the voices within its ranks being exemplified by Catarina Sereno as Louise’s work colleague Irma and Jamie Rock chiefly as the Junk Man.

Collectively, it is another choral treat, particularly when proceedings get into act three.

Madeleine Pierard is superb as Louise, mercifully without a hint of crooning in Depuis le jour, and her full-blooded soprano blends extremely well with Adrian Dwyer who just about gets away with the often-taxing tenor role of Julien.

It might be a concert performance but the dramatic commitment of both is never in doubt.

There are also suitably strong dramatic performances from Michael Druiett, especially, as Louise’s father and Susan Bickley as her mother, a formidable pair, indeed; while veteran tenor Adrian Thompson enjoys himself enormously as the Noctambulist and King of Fools.

Charpentier’s remarkable and evocative leitmotif-littered score is fabulously played a heavily augmented Northern Chamber Orchestra and conductor Stephen Barlow marshals all magnificently.

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