The Dragon of Wantley - Barber Institute by Christopher Morley

This joyous presentation is exactly the epitome of what students should be doing as an end-of-year romp, and one particularly appropriate here in the venue where my beloved Prof, the great Anthony Lewis did so much to revive interest in Handel opera over half-a-century ago.
John Frederick Lampe's The Dragon of Wantley lampoons the genre with the knowledge of an intimate insider who was bassoonist in Handel's opera orchestra. He pours out the most exquisitely crafted music, whether affectingly turned arioso or sturdy sequential counterpoint, set to Henry Carey's deliciously banal text ("D'ye laugh, you Minx! I'll make you change your Note, or drive your grinning Grinders down your throat.").
And instead of heroic deeds in far-off lands of long ago, here we have a Yorkshire village pillaged by a dragon who needs slaying; one could almost picture it as a Last of the Summer Wine scenario.
The students rose gloriously to the tempting challenges of this satire. George Bandy's direction was lively and natural, allowing every member of the enthusiastic chorus to characterise themselves with personality, and placing the principals with convincing simplicity over an unfussy but versatile set, sensitively lit by Crispin Hodges.
Difficult to single out praise for any principal, but Emily Beech and Harriet Smith were outstanding as the cat-fighting Margery and Mauxalinda.
Musical values were very high, David Rice conducting an orchestra which braved 18th-century performance practice with exuberance, and which was supported by a brilliantly florid harpsichord, its player un-named in the beautifully-produced programme but who I guess was repetiteur Jacob Plumtree-Jones.
Christopher Morley

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