Michael Broadbent and The Lovely Ladies


Michael Broadbent and The Lovely Ladies

Swung by Buxton on our way to Manchester to see the second (and last) performance of “Lovely Ladies” – a comic opera composed by Peter Cowdrey and written by Hamish Anderson with a definite wine theme. Set in a Christie’s warehouse – the synopsis is as follows:-

“Two aspiring wines – Mas de Daumas Gassac and Alsace have heard a rumour that Michael Broadbent, their ‘English friend’ has retired from the wine trade and even repudiated wine altogether. Their future looks bleak.

Champagne arrives, confirms the rumour, but suggests that an ambassador be sent to Broadbent to persuade him not to retire. The grandee Bordeaux introduces himself as the wine best qualified for this role. The glamorous Château d’Yquem arrives, denounces Bordeaux and says that she and Michael have long been intimate and that she should be sent. Gassac, intending to recommend himself,suggests a younger wine is needed. Burgundy Red and Burgundy White are called forward and sing an ethereal duet. A fiery Côtes du Rhône now bursts upon the scene, arguing that she alone has sufficient body to revive Broadbent’s interest.

The dispute becomes general and more heated, until finally there is a thunderflash: a deus ex machina appears in a cloud of smoke. George Saintsbury, the father of English wine writing, has been sent down from on high. He tells the wines that Broadbent has only partially retired and that, in any case, his influence on the appreciation of wine has been lasting and profouind. Reassured, the wines retire to their bins, singing in chorus”.

It’s a pretty toungue-in-cheek romp with some spot-on allusions to the character of the wines with good performances all round, particularly by David Wolosko as the pompous portrayer of Bordeaux, described as “a firm wine with impressive length”, Gail Pearson oozing liquid gold as Ch. d’Yquem (an exquisite wine) and a feisty performance from Lilly Papaloannou as Côtes du Rhône (a vigorous wine with plenty of body) acting like a real Dolly Parton in all respects. But as Rosie Johnson, the director says in the programme notes “The opera is not about wine, but human frailties – the fear of change, a sense of loss and ambitions threatened.”

I spoke to Rosie after the performance, to ask whether there was a libretto printed. “Not yet” she replied. As far as I am aware, there have been only three performances of this opera – at Christies in May 2010 and the two performances at the Buxton Festival this year and there are no plans for another. I wondered if this would be a good thing to put on for The Benevolent but Rosie was pretty adamant that they could only afford to do another performance “for money.” If anyone connected with Covent Garden Opera is reading this, it would be an ideal one for the Linbury.

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